2018-06-28 / Around Town

Unanimous Budget Approval for Council

By James Merolla

The Newport City Council unanimously approved the 2018-2019 operating budget on Wednesday, June 27, with a 1.5 percent increase in school funding

Prior to the budget approval, the Council voted to increase the sewer rate to $19.80 per 1,000 gallons of metered water consumption at a Second Reading. The Council then unanimously approved a tax levy rate of $9.99 per $1,000 of assessed value for residential property, and $14.98 per $1,000 of assessed value of commercial property.

The municipal side of the budget is going to be just over $71 million with nearly $41 million allocated for the schools.

Other details of the budget, totals and breakdowns, were not discussed publicly. After the meeting, Councilor Jeanne Marie Napolitano told Newport This Week that the increase was very similar to what the Council gave the school department last year.

Even though Superintendent Colleen Jermain, and School Committee members Jo Eva Gaines and Sandra Flowers were in attendance, none spoke at the public hearing that preceded the vote. “I’m here to support this,” Gaines said.

Because the breakdown of figures was not aired publicly, Councilor Jamie Bova told the audience, “I really urge you all to go online, see how we appropriate, to see how we operate and are spending the appropriations.”

Mayor Harry Winthrop thanked City Manager Joe Nicholson, City Clerk Laura Swistak, and “the entire staff for all the hard work, you have done on this year’s City budget.”

In the evening’s second most important business decision, the Council voted unanimously to approve the sale of The Triplett School at 435 Broadway to Island Moving Company for $900,000.

Nicholson said his recommendation to the City Council to sell the former school followed a year’s worth of discussion. “Our job, in some respects, is done this evening,” he said, reminding those in attendance that Island Moving Company still has to do the regulatory work to allow for the demolition of the school, which would pave the way for the dance company’s new theater and dance educational building, as well as up to four residential homes that could be built behind it on the same parcel.

“This is a culmination of a lot of work, by a lot of people. I think it’s a good project,” said Nicholson.

“The neighbors really like the idea of the homes being built,” said Bova. “Any parking issues, you’d need to get a variance in front of Planning and Zoning, but I think this is a really wonderful project and expands the revitalization of Broadway further north.”

“I see what the Island Moving Company is doing at the Pell School and the impact it is offering,” said Councilor Susan Taylor. “I think they are a tremendous partner with Newport.”

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