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No comments at Smithfield budget hearing

No one spoke at the public hearing on Smithfield’s proposed 2021-2022 budget June 1.

The general fund portion totals $9.4 million, a roughly $500,000 drop from the current year’s general fund budget of $9.9 million. No tax or fee increases are proposed.

There’s an additional $1.2 million allocated for the town’s highway fund, $1.9 million for its sewer fund and $3 million for its water fund, bringing the total proposed budget to $15.8 million.

A reduction in state and federal grants due to the town’s nearing completion of its Pinewood Heights budget accounts for much of the general fund decrease, Town Manager Michael Stallings said. The project involves relocating residents of the Pinewood Heights neighborhood behind Smithfield Foods’ meatpacking plant in preparation for turning the area into a town-owned industrial park.

The town also plans to use a lower amount of reserves to balance its upcoming budget, which also contributed to the general fund decrease.

Last year, fearing a budget shortfall from COVID-19 impacts, the town eliminated recycling from its budget and imposed a $6.01-per-month fee for curbside trash collection, the cost for which had previously been covered by the town taxes residents already pay. While the town’s budget woes proved not as dire as initially predicted, the town isn’t planning any reduction to the fee or reinstating recycling. Town Treasurer Ellen Minga estimates the town saved roughly $134,000 by cutting the program.

The proposed budget includes a 2% cost of living increase for town employees and $25,000 to begin plans for renovating the town-owned Smithfield Times building. A final vote on the budget is scheduled for a special meeting June 28.