CHARLESTOWN — On Monday, residents will go to the polls for a second time to vote on Charlestown’s 2019-20 budget. The amended budget of $28 million replaces the proposed spending plan that was rejected in the June 3 referendum. The defeat was attributed to a $3.1 million allocation for a community center project that residents said needed more public discussion. 

At a public hearing on July 8, the Town Council heard from residents on the proposed spending plan, and made several changes.

The community center construction line item has been removed, and $1 million would go back to taxpayers in the form of a tax reduction. The revised budget would lower the tax rate from the current $9.64 per $1,000 to $9.23. The owner of a home valued at $350,000 would save about $143.

Town Council President Virginia Lee said the changes responded to residents’ concerns.

“The council once again listened to the voters and at our last meeting on July 8, we voted unanimously to decrease the bottom line of the budget by about $1 million and to send it back to the voters for a referendum,” she said. “We also took the line item for community center out of the budget.”

Council Vice President Deborah Carney, a critic of the budget as it was first proposed, said she supported the revised spending plan.

“The reason I was against it last time was because of that unknown $3,095,000 construction line item,” she said. “That has since been removed and some of the money is being refunded to the taxpayers in the form of a reduction in the tax levy, and the remaining money, some of the money is staying in the unassigned surplus, which is where it is now, and the rest of the money will also be going to an unassigned surplus fund. So the money will stay there until the voters can decide what they want to do with it.”

The council will also commission an independent townwide survey, asking residents which recreational facilities they would like to see in Charlestown. The funds for the survey, $74,500, will come from a refund by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for expenses incurred during a blizzard in February 2013.

Carney said the council will discuss the parameters of the survey once a new budget has been approved.

“It was on a previous agenda, but we’re holding off until after the vote,” she said. “So what exactly is going to be involved in the survey will be determined at a future council meeting.”

The town sent out a notice of the upcoming referendum with budget information in its Pipeline newsletter, but some of the budget figures were incorrect and residents are being directed to the town’s website for accurate information.

Lee said the timing for sending out the Pipeline notice had been tight because of the impending second referendum in July.

“If the referendum were going to be this month, there was very little time, so the staff had already drafted up the Pipeline and so it went out without without the exact information the council had voted on that night,” she said. 

Voting will take place on Monday at Town Hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We’re really hoping for a good turnout because the intention is to engage the voters in the important decisions for the town,” Lee said.

Information on the revised budget can be found on the town’s website: 

https://www.charlestownri.org/

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