September 30 2020

Town Meeting Approves $2.1 Million in FY21 Budget Cuts in Response to COVID-19 Related Shortfalls

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington Town Meeting approved $2.1 million in cuts from the FY21 budget that were deemed necessary due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Town Administrator Paul Sagarino explained the cuts were a continuation of the budget discussion started in June when the fiscal year spending was first approved. He said at that meeting they asked for additional time to possibly adjust the budget when they had a better understanding of the town’s financial situation and perhaps more insight into the future. 


“We promised to come back with any suggestions to balance the budget,” he said. “We’re here to do that tonight.” 


Fortunately, he said, state aid was level-funded from FY20 and not cut significantly as they initially feared. Less fortunately, local receipts, items like hotel/motel tax, meals tax and fees from building permits, were down significantly. 


Town Accountant John Danizio said in FY20 the town brought in $21.2 million from local receipts and this year that number was down to $14.6 million. He said the revenue from them was close to what it was back in 2011 or 2012. 


This meant that cuts had to be made to what was initially proposed to the tune of $2.1 million. The majority of the deficit came from Accommodated Accounts, mostly by holding off on OPEB payments. In total, $1.4 million were taken from this source. 


The rest, $700,000 would be made up from additional cuts, half on the town side and half from the School Department. Danizio, who recommended the cuts on the town side, said they worked hard to have the least impact as possible on services and town employees. 


The biggest cuts on the town side 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. 


School Committee Chair Christine Monaco said the School Department would do all it could to meet its share of the cuts but said this is a difficult year for them. 


“We’ve been  asked to cut $350,000 and we are committed to helping the community with budget problems we all face due to the pandemic,” she said. 


She said that as of this time there are no projections on where the department finances will be due to the complexity of the pandemic. However, she added that as of Wednesday night they have projected a surplus at the end of the fiscal year of $133,000 before the cuts. After the cuts they project a $217,000 deficit. 


Part of that is because due to the pandemic and regular reasons like maternity leave they have had to hire 17 new employees to date this school year and may need more. These positions include instructional assistants, permanent substitutes, custodians to keep up with the extra cleaning and more cafeteria staff to deliver meals to classrooms. 


In the end Monaco said they will strive to make the cuts but may need assistance further down the road. 


“In conclusion we’re willing to reduce the budget to be team players with the caveat that if we cannot meet our obligations we might need your help in the future with additional funds if we can’t make it work,” she said. 


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