September 16 2020

Pandemic Related Closings Caused $2.1 Million Deficit in Burlington’s FY21 Operating Budget

By: Rich Hosford

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy are beginning to come into focus. 


On Monday night, Town Accountant and Assistant Town Administrator John Danizio gave the Board of Selectmen an update on the state of the town’s finances and what measures he recommended for the upcoming Town Meeting.  


First, he said the good news is that they are expecting the same level of funding in state aid from FY20 in FY21. The fear had been that they had expected to possibly receive up to $2 million less. 


The bad news was the state of local receipts from sources such as meals and hotel taxes and building permits. He said the shortfall from those was $2.1 million less than was projected before the pandemic, mostly because of the closures of businesses including restaurants and hotels that came as part of the governor’s shut-down order in March. This meant that the budget passed during the Town Meeting in June would have to be altered to reflect this amount. 


Under Denizio’s recommendations, the majority of the deficit will come from Accommodated Accounts, mostly by holding off on OPEB payments. In total, $1.4 million will be taken from this source. 


“We wanted to see what we could cut that would have the least effect on services, programs and employees,” he said. 


The other $700,000 will be split between the town and the school side of the budget, Danizio said. 


The biggest cuts on the town side, according to the recommendations, are $55,000 from the Police, $50,000 from the DPW and $45,000 from Accounting. Most departments will see cuts between $15,000 and $27,000. A few departments, including the Town Clerk, Conservation, Human Resources, Planning and Veterans Services. 


The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to recommend Danizio’s plan to Town Meeting, saying they acknowledged the impact of the pandemic. 


“Folks need to understand that we are in between a rock and hard place,” Selectman Nick Priest said. “Asking everyone to make cuts is difficult because a lot of our departments are up in their service requests.”


He also said they want to avoid raising taxes.  


“We try to be cautious about how we approach that,” Priest said. “With the unemployment rate being high and businesses struggling I think raising taxes should be a last resort. We are not taking this lightly - it’s a serious concern that we are dealing with.”


How the School Department will make its cuts, or if they will propose a different solution, will be decided by the School Committee.


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