May 14 2019

Town Meeting Approves $141 Million FY20 Budget

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington Town Meeting approved the FY2020 after a somewhat lengthy discussion during the first night of the Annual May Town Meeting on Monday.

 

In total the budget is roughly $141 million and came out to be a 3.9 percent rise over the FY19 budget. This was slightly over the goal laid out at the beginning of the process of a 3.5 percent increase. The extra funds that pushed the budget over the goal were attributed to a new school busing contract that was a significant increase over the last one.

 

As is customary, Town Administrator Paul Sagarino gave a report at the top of the budget discussion. He said the town finances were doing well and that thanks to the growth Burlington has seen in the last decade or so the town’s commercial properties are able to keep residential taxes on the lower end. He pointed out that the value of the town is 61.3 percent residential and 38.7 percent commercial the tax levy is 37.9 percent residential and 62.1 percent commercial.

 

“We like to say one-third of the value is commercial but it pays for two-thirds of the tax levy,” he said. “That is a unique thing about Burlington - on average other towns’ commercial sectors account for only 18 percent of the tax levy.”

 

Sagarino also said that the budget is far below the state’s legal limit under Proposition 2 1/2.

 

We could have spent $11 million more without an override vote or anything like that,” he said. “It’s a good reserve for the town and shows this body has shown a lot of restraint in spending over the years.”

 

The majority of department had their budgets approved with little or no discussion. Others, however, received questions from Town Meeting members about some of their specifics.

 

The biggest discussion centered around the School Department budget of $65,702,739, which was higher than originally reported in the budget books distributed to Town Meeting members due to the aforementioned busing contract.

 

Town Meeting member Matt Frost asked why the department has had a consistent four to five percent increase over the past few years while enrollment, he argued, is likely rising at a lower rate.

 

Superintendent Eric Conti said that cost factors are not only attributed to how many students are in a district but what students need to succeed. For example, he said, the number of students who have a first language other than English has increased in the last decade.

 

“While our enrollment isn’t necessary rising, our student population has been growing in diversity in over the last 10 years,” he said. “We have over 50 languages spoken in the district and we’re asking for an English language learning teacher.”

 

Conti said the district has also seen a rise in the number of students with special education needs that contribute to the rise in special education costs.

 

There were also questions about the bus contract, especially around the fact that the school only received one bid during the process. Some members said the lack of competitive bids was a problem that should be addressed.  

 

Conti said the department solicited more bids but only received the one. He further said that in the last couple of years there have been 30 new transportation contracts made with school departments in the state and that Burlington’s, while higher than the last 5-year contract, was the third lowest in the state.

 

“We felt it was competitive,” he said.

 

There were also questions about the Council of Aging increasing the part-time salary and contracted services line items.

 

CoA Director Marge McDonald said they are increasing the hours of one outreach worker from 19 to 23 and temporarily funding another that was being paid by a grant while they re-apply for grant money. Some members questioned whether it would be better to hire another part-time worker with shorter hours since increasing the first to 23 makes them eligible for some benefits from the town. McDonald said they had some outreach workers that worked short hours but it didn’t work out as well as people who can spend more time in the field and are able to make better relationships with the seniors they service.

 

 

Click Here to see the full budget.

 
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