Personal Essay: Your meeting, your island, your vote

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 9:00am

Block Island is one of the last remaining towns in Rhode Island to hold a Financial Town Meeting, a time when all registered voters have a say regarding the town’s finances, so please come to the Block Island School at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 7, to exercise your vote.

What is the Financial Town Meeting? 

In my opinion, it is true democracy, for it allows each person to vote on financial matters that impact the town, including operating budgets, capital expenditures, borrowing authority, protection and management of economic resources, levying of taxes, etc. This is the time when we, as citizens, have the right to determine how to best manage the town’s monetary resources for the community.

The process of developing an operating and capital budget has many steps, which are largely prescribed by the Town Charter and state law. The information-gathering steps started several months ago with submissions of the Capital Plan from the Planning Board, budget requests from the town’s department heads, and the annual budget proposal from the Block Island School. 

The Town Council held public hearings over the past two months regarding the budget where there was a great deal of discussion about the pros and cons of all parts of the budget, including the rationale for changes to spending and consideration of ways to increase non-taxpayer revenue. The Town Council formally recommended the proposed $14.5 million budget along with other questions on the Warrant that include topics regarding broadband for the Community Anchor Institutions (Medical Center, B.I. School, Library, Town Hall and the public safety complex); funds to research/design an island-wide broadband network; rental housing for at least seven town related employees; and funding to reconstruct and stabilize the West Beach landfill.

At the Financial Town Meeting, I hope we can all discuss, consider, and vote on these important topics. Please come to the meeting and exercise your right to vote. I look forward to joining all of you and voting for our island.