During last Tuesday’s (Dec. 1) Board of Finance meeting, members began preliminary discussions about the budget process for FY’2022, and the only thing they know for sure at this point is that for a second budget year, there’s much they don’t know, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Board member Chris Stroup provided a brief update on the last Budget Operations Subcommittee meeting (Nov.19), mentioning “further conversations around putting together a series of alternative budgets” for the Board of Education, indicating there will likely be multiple budget options to consider for various contingencies.
The Budget Ops members have begun assessing factors for the new fiscal year, including budget planning, budget assumptions, enrollment projections, and COVID expenditures, according to Stroup’s fellow Budget Ops subcommittee member, Stuart Koenigsberg. Many details about those budget factors are still unknown as well.
“To me, the interesting element was there will be further discussions on enrollment assumptions and there’s another update that’s being worked on,” Koensigberg expressed.
Stroup concluded, “There were no decisions taken, no guidance provided, just a general conversation around the challenges of budgeting given the uncertainty and some discussions on specific spending items. Nothing conclusive,” alluding to COVID as a reason for the ambiguity. Discussions will continue during the next Budget Operations meeting on Thursday, Dec. 10.
Stroup expressed interest in receiving information about real estate tax collection for FY’21, which town CFO Anne Kelly-Lenz said she would provide at the next BOF meeting. While it’s still early in the process, the long-term economic impact of COVID has made it unclear whether the town will be able to continue collecting real estate taxes at its typical 99%-99.5% rate.
Board Chair Jeffrey Rutishauser also discussed prospective BOF meetings for 2021. The board plans to meet separately with both the BOE and the BOS to review their budgets, discuss the mill rate, and set public hearings.
Rutishauser was unable to provide specific dates for these meetings, saying there was, “too much ambiguity to lock in anything.”
However, the BOF’s regular meeting dates for 2021 were approved and set for the second Tuesday of each month.