standing letters

Charlestown residents, please come vote for your town budget on Monday June 3rd between 8 a.m. and 8p.m. at the Charlestown Town Hall on Route 2.

The town budget for the coming fiscal year was carefully prepared by town staff and the Budget Commission and endorsed by the Charlestown Town Council to fund our schools, police, recreation, roadways, transfer station and many other essential municipal services, all without any tax increase! With this budget, Charlestown residents will continue to have among the lowest property taxes in the state, a well-run town government and award winning schools.

One portion of the budget has the potential to strengthen our sense of community. Because four unusual things converged in the winter: lower costs for road construction, a lower enrollment in the schools, no more large capital projects and more money than recommended in the “rainy day fund”- we have a cost savings of about $3 million. This has never happened before and is unlikely ever to happen again. It provides a tax-free opportunity to significantly benefit all of our community now and for future generations.

Once the amount of money was clarified, an Ad Hoc committee of highly qualified residents was appointed by the Charlestown Town Council to survey public opinion and actively engage town residents in an open conversation to determine how best to allocate these funds and make recommendations to the Town Council. If the budget passes, the money will be safeguarded in a designated reserve fund until the public input process is complete.

In my view, this is an unexpected chance to create something of value in a way that engages every neighborhood and strengthens our community. After assessing the options, I believe the best investment would be to build a Charlestown sized community center in the town’s main recreational area, Ninigret Park, across from the Police Station. I anticipate that it will be staffed and maintained by people who are currently on the town payroll and therefore not result in specific increases in taxes. I believe this is one way of returning the surplus to the taxpayers in a form that is equitable, functional, enjoyable and lasting.

There are no bad choices here – only good ones and better ones. I am sworn to represent the citizens of Charlestown and am eager to hear your ideas in public meetings over the next few months, so that I can represent you well. Please engage with the Ad Hoc Committee to let your views be known - email: CommunityCenter@CharlestownRI.org or phone: 401-364-1210.

Virginia Lee

Charlestown

The writer is the president of the Charlestown Town Council.

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