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Town Meeting Approves FY23 Operating Budget

Burlington’s Fiscal Year 2023 operating budget was approved by Town Meeting during the first Monday night of the May session.

Town Administrator Paul Sagarino said the guidelines for the budget included a 3.5 percent increase in the levy on the town side and a 3.75 percent levy increase in the School Department budget. In the end the combined total came to 3.74 percent, meeting the ambition of keeping the total tax levy increase under 5 percent.

The largest source of income for the budget is property taxes with 49 percent coming from commercial properties and 30 percent from residential properties. The remaining revenue comes from local receipts such as meals and hotel taxes and fees for permits along with state aid. Sagarino said an increase in state aid, up to roughly $12.5 million from $10.3 million in FY22, helped the town meet the under 5 percent levy goal.

So what will the new budget mean for tax rates? Burlington has a split tax rate and the exact amount of the burden that will be placed on residential versus commercial property is set during a special hearing by the Select Board in the fall.

Traditionally the board has aimed to keep residential rates low to help residents. The residential rate in FY22 was $9.95 per $1,000 of value, being 43rd out of 351 municipalities in the state. The commercial rate was $26.64 per $1,000 of value, the 34th highest in the state.

“It’s certainly on the higher end,” Sagarino said of the commercial rate. “But it’s still very competitive with neighboring communities that we compete for businesses with.”

Finally, Sagarino said there were multiple goals town leaders had in mind when preparing the budget. These include maintaining services, controlling fees, prioritizing investment, adjusting plans for long term liabilities and creating a plan for backing off the use of reserves. The town has been putting $500,000 per year of federal funds through a COVID relief grant to supplement the budget but Sagarino said they are working to fund future operating budgets with 100 percent sustainable sources of revenue.