by Robert Holt
MICKLETON — At their meeting on May 13, the East Greenwich Township Committee received an update on the state of their 2014 budget from CFO Robert Law, and the news was not good. The township is facing a budget shortfall of about $500,000.
Law mentioned a lack of revenues coming in to East Greenwich as the community’s main problem. He cited revenues being way down in the water and sewer department, and other budget items being underfunded. The annual financial statements were about two weeks from being complete on the night of the meeting.
Law said East Greenwich’s budget surplus has been severely depleted. The community had about $630,000 in its surplus last year and spent $577,000 of that, according to the CFO. “We have nowhere to go but up,” Law commented.
He said that East Greenwich is looking into all possibilities to close its budget deficit, but would need state approval for everything it is considering. Law gave three options that were available to the township.
“I’ve had discussions with the Assistant Director of the Division of Local Government Services Tina Zappicchi about transitional aid,” noted Law. “That is help from the state with strings attached.”
Municipalities receiving transitional aid are managed by state assistance and oversight. “You are actually being monitored by the state,” Law explained. “It is essentially a handout. They will only offer it if you can explain how you are going to get out of your situation.”
Other options listed by Law included shared services, which would have no effect on the current budget, and possible debt restructuring.
Committeeman Tom Decker called the situation a professional services issue more than a departmental matter. Decker pointed out that the community might approach eight months without a budget before everything is completed.
Mayor Dale Archer countered, “I’m not even optimistic we’ll have one by August.”
But the mayor asked for the Committee to unite to find an answer. “We’re obviously in a very difficult situation,” Archer commented. “We need to hold the line. It is crucial for department heads to come together and be as creative as possible to balance the budget this year.”
Later in the meeting, Archer did find another source of revenue for East Greenwich when the Committee introduced an ordinance that would amend domestic wastewater connection charges. The township’s first audit on its sewer connection fees in 10 years determined that the charges are 50 percent lower than they should be, according to Archer.
“This is a nice revenue driver for the township,” he added.
Elsewhere, the Committee authorized the appropriation of $110,000 for the acquisition of utility equipment. Committeeman Stephen Bottiglieri noted that a necessary upgrade to the East Greenwich Police Department’s fingerprinting system was included here.
“Our current fingerprinting system is outdated,” Bottiglieri explained. “Windows XP is not supported by Microsoft, and has to be updated to comply with Meghan’s Law requirements.”
The Committee also passed resolutions that would establish green and creative teams for 2014. “These two resolutions will give our community points that would make us eligible for grants on green and environmental issues,” stated Archer. “No one has ever reached what we’re about to reach, and there’s a ton of money available.”
Archer also announced that the Committee planned to have a special meeting where they would establish a Veterans’ preference for future hiring within East Greenwich.
“It is my hope that in passing a resolution to provide a Veterans’ hiring preference, East Greenwich will lead the way for other municipalities as well as our County to follow in kind,” Archer said.
The mayor has been a U.S. Marine, and served in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.