June 11 2020

Town Meeting Approves $148M FY21 Budget

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington Town Meeting voted to approve the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget at the town’s first outdoor, social distancing session on Wednesday evening. 


Town Administrator Paul Sagarino said this was a unique year but urged members to pass the budget as it was written and said if necessary adjustment can be made in the September session. 


“It is an unprecedented time and while our plan may be different than the way you think we should do it we have chosen a path and do think it is the right path,” he said. 


He said the reason to keep on track is that while everyone knows COVID-19 is a major disruption, the town will have better information in the fall. 


“We concluded we wanted more time to get more data to make better decisions,” he said. 


He also said Burlington was well positioned to handle the pandemic due to a history of paying close attention to the budget process and not over-spending. 


“For years this community has always prided itself on conservative budgeting,” he said. “We’ve been preparing for something like this for a long time and we’ve been budgeting conservatively in case some terrible happened so we wouldn’t decimate the town budget.”


Still, he said moving forward the town will take additional steps to help ensure the town finances are strong. He said there will be a freeze on non-essential purchases and hirings. He also said that in this budget the town would not use any of its Free Cash, currently at over $10 million, to cover any expenses.


Sagarino also said that even if certain budget items are passed this year, including some capital projects, the projects will be put on hold until necessary and might be re-evaluated in September if the impact of the loss of local receipts (meals tax, hotel tax, building permits, etc) has a larger impact than expected. 


“If things get really bad we will have to consider a reduction of programs, services or staff,” he said. “Starting tomorrow through September we will be studying all of that.”


In total the FY21 budget passed by Town Meeting was $148,317,413, which represents a 4.27 percent increase over the prior year. 


There was some discussion about some of the department budgets, mostly at the behest of Town Meeting member Matt Frost who “held” them for questions. These included why the Town Clerk’s office was changing a part time employee to a full time employee and why there was a salary increase in the Building Department and the Council on Aging.


Town Clerk Amy Warfield said that an increase in state and federal requirements has put more work on her office in the past few years. She added that an increase in automated services for residents, like registering to vote other municipal forms, actually increases work for her staff even as it makes it more convenient for users. 


The increase in Building Department salary was explained as the fulfillment of the salary of a new building inspector added last year. In FY20 the budget only reflected half of the year’s salary and the new budget included the full amount. 


Council on Aging Director Marge McDonald said that the CoA has seen a rise in the number of seniors using her department’s services and the nature of their requests getting more complicated, necessitating the need for more hours for outreach workers. 


In the end all the department budgets were passed by Town Meeting.


Web Design by Polar Design