Budget Process

On the third Monday in February of each year, the Town Manager shall submit to the Finance Board, with copies to the Town Council, the proposed budget of the Town of Westerly. For this purpose, the Town Manager shall obtain from the head of each Town office, department, or agency an estimate of its proposed expenditures and anticipated revenues with such supporting data as he may deem necessary. In preparing the proposed budget, the Town Manager shall review the estimates submitted and may revise them as he may deem advisable, except that he may not make any revisions in the budget submitted by the School Committee but shall present that portion to the Board of Finance and to the Council as received from the School Committee.

Duties of the Board of Finance.

A.  After the submission of the recommended annual budget proposals by the Town Manager, the Board of Finance shall hold its first meeting of the recommended annual school budget as soon as practicable. The Board of Finance is empowered to confer with the Town Manager, all department heads, and any others deemed necessary for the understanding and fair consideration of the requested appropriations and sundry resolutions. The Board of Finance will have the power to recommend revision to any of the proposed school budget items and must conduct one public hearing after a tentative school budget has been formed. Prior to this public hearing, the Town Clerk shall publish this tentative school budget on the Town's publicly accessible website or future electronic equivalent. This publication shall include the complete, detailed school budget estimates of receipts and expenditures, being the same as described in § 11-1-7 of the Charter and any recommended revisions by the Finance Board.

B.  The Board of Finance shall hold its first meeting of the recommended municipal budget submitted by the Town Manager as soon as practicable. The Board of Finance will have the power to revise any of the proposed municipal budget items and must conduct one public hearing after a tentative municipal budget has been formed. Prior to this public hearing, the Town Clerk shall publish this tentative municipal budget on the Town's publicly accessible web site or future electronic equivalent.

C.  After the public hearing has been held, the Board of Finance shall meet with the Council to transmit its recommendation(s) of the consolidated tentative Town budget to the Council not later than the first Monday in April. It shall present a budget message of explanation along with the budget recommendation to the Council.

Duties of Council - rights of the electorate.

A.  The Town Council shall review the recommendations of the Finance Board and shall make any revisions that it may deem necessary or desirable, in which case the Council shall make provisions for no less than two public hearings. They are to be held on two separate days and concluded no later than the fourth Wednesday in April. The Council shall then file the proposed budget with the Town Clerk.

B.  Within seven days of this filing, the Town Clerk shall publish the proposed budget in a newspaper having general circulation in the Town which shall indicate all items and amounts thereof that the Council has altered, rejected, added, or deleted, in some appropriate manner on the budget as being those items either not recommended or not having been considered by the Board of Finance.

C.  Within eight days of the publishing of the budget, any item or items (the appropriation for any department, office, or purpose) may be contested by means of a petition for change signed by 3% or more of the qualified electors as determined at the previous general election. Such petition may be instituted by any qualified elector, but prior to being circulated for signatures, such petition shall be filed with the Town Clerk who shall attest to the filing and affix the seal of the Town. If no petition for change is presented before the expiration of this period, the budget as proposed by the Council shall be considered as adopted.

D.  If one or more petitions for change are filed within the period designated in § 3-1-5(c) and have at least the required number of signatures thereon, the Board of Canvassers shall, within three days, check the validity of the signatures. Within 32 days of validation by the Board of Canvassers, a referendum shall be held at such polling place or places as may be designated by the Board of Canvassers.

E.  Mail ballots and emergency ballots will be available by application only to the Board of Canvassers according to regulations that may be imposed by the Board of Canvassers necessary to implement this adoption. The majority of the qualified electors voting at such a referendum shall determine whether the proposed budget shall or shall not be amended as proposed by any valid petition for change. If more than one petition for change affects the same appropriation, a plurality of those qualified electors voting shall determine the amount of such appropriation that will become a part of the adopted budget.

Publication of final budget.

A copy of the budget, as finally adopted by the Council, or as amended by referendum, shall be certified by the Town Clerk and filed in the office of the Town Treasurer. Sufficient copies shall be made available by the Town Clerk for the use of all offices, departments and agencies, and for the use of interested persons.

Amendments after adoption.

A.  Supplemental appropriations. If during the fiscal year the Town Manager certified that there are available for appropriation revenues in excess of those estimated in the budget, the Council by ordinance may make supplemental appropriations for the year up to the amount of such excess.

B.  Emergency appropriations. To meet a public emergency affecting life, health, property or the public peace, the Council may make emergency appropriations. Such appropriations may be made by emergency ordinance in accordance with the provisions of § 15-2-4. To the extent that there are no available unappropriated revenues to meet such appropriations, the Council may by such emergency ordinance authorize the issuance of emergency notes, which may be renewed from time to time, but the emergency notes and renewals of any fiscal year shall be paid not later than the last day of the fiscal year next succeeding that in which the emergency appropriation was made.

C.  Reduction of appropriations. If at any time during the fiscal year it appears probable to the Town Manager that the revenues available will be insufficient to meet the amount appropriated, he shall report to the Council without delay, indicating the estimated amount of the deficit, any remedial action taken by him and his recommendations as to any other steps to be taken. The Council shall then take such further action as it deems necessary to prevent or minimize any deficit and for that purpose it may by ordinance reduce one or more appropriations.

D.  Transfer of appropriations. At any time during the fiscal year the Town Manager may transfer part or all of any unencumbered appropriation balance among programs within a department, office or agency and, upon written request by the Town Manager, the Council may by ordinance transfer part or all of any unencumbered appropriation balance from one department, office or agency to another.

E.  Limitations: effective date. No appropriation for debt service may be reduced or transferred, and no appropriation may be reduced below any amount required by law to be appropriated or by more than the amount of the unencumbered balance thereof.