I think it's spring -- 05/08/01

I think it's spring. We've had cool but mostly pleasant weather recently. Then last week we had a very warm Wednesday and actually hot weather (mid to upper 80's) on Thursday and Friday, but then it cooled off and barely reach the 60's on Saturday. Sunday's high temperature never even reached 55 and I had to scrape frost off my car windows on Monday morning. It was maybe 60 when I went for a short run after work yesterday but quickly dropped through the 50's and into the 40's after sunset (and into low 30's overnight). Sean had gone off to a party a few blocks away for some foreign exchange students at his high school. Nancy and I went for a walk at twilight and could see (and hear) a large crowd of teenagers at the party. The party ended around ten pm and he brought a few kids home, at least of one whom was from England. [Note to metric readers: Thursday and Friday temps were around 30 to 32 degrees, Saturday's high was around 16, Sunday was around 12, last night's temperatures dropped through the low teens into single digits with an overnight low near zero.]

The school budget survived the referendum but it was a close vote, a margin of 54 votes out of almost four thousand. The fire district (a separate taxing entity from the town, don't ask me why 'cause I haven't a clue) was concerned because their budget was also very high this year (construction of a new headquarters building complete with classrooms for training) but despite the required tax increase their budget passed at the annual fire district financial meeting which followed the school budget referendum by just a few days. I'm glad that passed without much difficulty because I supported the increase but completely forgot to attend the meeting.

It took a bit of time for me to adjust to the difference in local government organization here in Rhode Island compared with what I was used to in New York State. County government was important there, providing lots of services (welfare services, roads and highways outside of cities/villages, sheriffs dept., county courts, county parks, county community college, etc.). Town governments were not very important, mostly taking care of town roads and perhaps a few parks and maybe a small town police force. We lived in the City of Binghamton, so were accustomed to the city taking care of most local government needs (police and fire, etc.) plus the school system. Outside of major cities in N.Y. the school systems are completely separate entities, run by an elected school board, and with budgets that have to be submitted to the taxpayers for a vote. Binghamton was a city school district, so the budget did not have to be submitted to the voters directly, but the school board members were elected by the public. Here in Rhode Island county governments are relatively unimportant; outside of cities, the town is the most important unit of government. Having been accustomed to a system where school board members were not identified with political parties (note I did not say anything about political factions, merely not identified with parties) I was startled when I moved to Rhode Island and saw School Committee members identified as Republicans and Democrats. The elected School Committee members set the school budget but then they have to turn to the town government for the money, which means the town has to approve it, so eventually it comes before the Annual Town Financial Meeting where town residents (who are registered voters) can come to voice their opinions and (eventually) vote on the various parts of the town budget. (The school budget ended up being voted on in a referendum because that was requested at the town meeting; a referendum can be requested for any part of the budget that is at least two percent of the total budget.) The town is run by a Town Manager, a professional administrator hired by the town. Including debt service, etc., our town's annual budget is around sixty million dollars; more than two thirds of that is the school system. The rest of the budget covers parks & recreation, town roads, police and ambulance, etc. The Fire dept., as I noted earlier, is a separate organization. The "villages" (Kingston, West Kingston, Peace Dale, Wakefield, etc.) are really just place names, not governments.

Saturday's mail brought the new assessment for our house. The entire town has been reassessed this year. We had recently had our house appraised so that we could drop PMI from our mortgage. The town assessment came in a bit higher than that figure. Of course I don't won't know the effect on our property taxes until the tax rate is determined which probably won't happen until after those residents who think their assessment is too high have a chance to complain and appeal, etc.

Nancy went to Washington with her students last week. Two bus loads of 8th graders! Departure was at 6 a.m. Wednesday from their school. Stop at Ellis Island on the way to Washington. Visit the various historic sites, Ford Theatre, Arlington Cemetery, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Congress, Smithsonian museums, Washington Zoo.... whew, what an exhausting itinerary... return to the school Saturday night around 8:30. The trip was quite successful but also quite exhausting.

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