standing Westerly Town Hall

WESTERLY — The Board of Finance will conduct a public hearing on the proposed 2020-21 municipal and schools budget tonight at 6 in Council Chambers at Town Hall.

Town Hall, which is closed for most public business, will be open and residents may attend the meeting but seating will be limited to observe social distancing requirements being followed as a means to slow the spread of COVID-19. The meeting will be streamed live via the municipal website at http://www.westerlyri.gov/.

The public will also have the option to participate via ZOOM meeting on their computers and on their cell phones. To use the ZOOM platform go to https://zoom.us/j/964493513. The meeting identification number is 964 493 513. The ZOOM meeting phone number is 929-205-6099 and two toll-free numbers: 888-475-4499 and 877-853-5257.

An executive order signed by Gov. Gina Raimondo in response to the coronavirus public health crisis allows municipalities to conduct public meetings via online platforms that allow for public participation, such as ZOOM.

The Board of Finance has canceled most of its meetings on the proposed budget due to the virus.

Town Manager J. Mark Rooney proposed a $96.19 million combined municipal and education budget for 2020-21, an increase of 3.1%, but that budget could change significantly as officials anticipate diminished revenue resulting from business closures connected to the virus.

As proposed, the budget includes a $50,124,718 contribution of local tax dollars, a $1.66 million, or 3.44%, increase over the current spending plan, for the public schools, and $36,072,733 for municipal operations, including debt service on municipal and school projects. The municipal component represents a $1.66 million increase, or 3.44%. The proposed budget would require a 5% increase in the tax levy, exceeding the state cap of 4%. Rooney told the board he expected it and the Town Council to reduce the budget requests, thereby bringing it into compliance with the state cap.

Earlier this month, the finance board discussed reducing the two proposed budgets by a total of $850,000, which would bump the tax levy increase down to about 3.75%.

The Town Council is scheduled to start its deliberations on the budget Monday during a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall.

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