Coventry residents concerned about possible budget cuts
By Brittany Comak
COVENTRY R.I. (WLNE) - Coventry residents turned out in droves Wednesday night at a meeting on the town budget to express their concerns about possibly millions of dollars in cuts.
This comes after the majority who turned out last week during a day-long referendum voted down the original budget.
However, only 8 percent of the town's population voted.
"I was hoping more people than 8 percent would come out to vote," said Town Council President Kerry McGee.
They filled two rooms at the town hall annex Wednesday night, clamoring for their turn at the microphone, mostly to tell town council that they would like to see the original budget.
"We're not the enemy here," said McGee. "We wanted this budget to pass."
Many of the folks at Wednesday's meeting said during public comment that either they would have approved the original budget, or they did vote for it, but blamed miscommunication by the town for not addressing the urgency of the funding.
"As taxpayers, if I were given the choice, on what to vote for next, it would be the budget I voted on last week," said one resident.
The original budget proposed a 3.9 percent tax levy, but wasn't approved during the all-day referendum.
With a level-funded budget, several municipal workers would likely be laid off, and they would have to completely eliminate the recreation department.
"These are all the programs that make Coventry, Coventry," said Town Manager Edward Warzycha. "Those are the things that these cuts, cut."
In addition, the school system is also facing major cuts to staffing and after-school programs.
"Education is most important to a successful future, and anyone entering the high school deserves the right to the whole of that," one student testified.
The two other budget options presented Wednesday would impose a 1.96, or a 2.54 percent tax levy.
Each scenario forces the town to cut about $350,000 from the budget, and the school budget: $ 1 million, and $600,000 respectively.
"It was $20,000 to put an all-day referendum on. I certainly want to make sure - we have a responsibility to present a budget that's going to pass," said McGee. "And people have spoken, they want a budget that's going to pass, and obviously the last one, which I thought was reasonable, did not pass."
Thursday night the school committee will meet to discuss what cuts they will have to make.
the next budget referendum will be at the end of June.