BURLINGTON – The town’s fiscal year 2021 Operating Budget has officially been impacted by COVID-19.
At the Board of Selectmen meeting this past Monday night, the Town Administration discussed the harsh reality that $2.1 million in cuts need to be made in the fiscal year 2021 Operating Budget, which was approved by Town Meeting this past June. At that unprecedented outdoor Town Meeting session on Varsity Field, the parameters were to pass the budget, as submitted, get more information as it came, review that information at September Town Meeting, then make data-driven decisions. The budget approved at Town Meeting checked in at $148,317,413.
Town Accountant/Assistant Town Administrator John Danizio detailed the local receipts have not been as bad as anticipated, but acknowledged they are “still pretty bad” as a result of the COVID-19 effect on the town’s economy.
“We are here tonight to adjust the local receipts down by $2.1 million,” professed Danizio. “We are continuing to work with all the departments to figure out what we can cut with the least effect on programs, services, employees and jobs.”
Fortunately, the Town Administration was able to reconfigure the Accommodated Accounts so that it makes up two-thirds of the $2.1 million in cuts, including not funding all of OPEB (other post-employment benefits) and the debt services this year. This has left the town with $700,000 that needs to be accounted for, which will have to come from the School Department and various town departments.
“Everybody is feeling some pain, but everybody knows the pain we are potentially going to feel this winter, when we are setting our spending guidelines for next year,” warned Danizio. “The results could be more significant. I want to thank everybody for being a team player in this and looking at their budgets, now and next year.”
Danizio confirmed the Town Administration will meet soon with Ways & Means and the specific departments impacted by the cuts.
He did divulge some relative good news, pertaining to local aid at the state level. The state was looking at a $2 million cut in local aid, but that is not the case anymore.
The selectmen were obviously torn in having to approve the updated fiscal year 2021 Operating Budget, with $2.1 million cuts, but they want residents to understand there is no other option, due to COVID-19.
“I want folks to understand we are jammed between a rock and a hard place,” explained Selectman Nicholas Priest. “It is obviously very difficult to make these cuts, but the pandemic has forced every community in the country to make these difficult concessions in order to get by until this pandemic hopefully ends.”
Selectman Michael Runyan, added, “We are doing everything we can to avoid layoffs, while maintaining services and programs.”
The selectmen unanimously approved the updated fiscal year 2021 Operating Budget of $146,217,413.