Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger presented his proposed 2021 city budget Monday. His presentations focused on changes to the city Police Department budget and enhancing racial justice financing at a time when city revenues will be sharply lower.
Burlington’s Democratic mayor first presented his proposed budget during a virtual briefing to the public and then formally submitted the overview to city councilors during the finance committee meeting. Weinberger said the overall budget will be challenging due to the COVID-19 crisis. “We are estimating right now, and this may prove to be conservative hopefully we'll do better than this, but we are estimating right now that about 15% of our revenues, $10 million, are going to vanish in the upcoming year. The city hasn't had a budget year like this in recent memory, maybe ever. Generally our budgets are quite stable and have very modest changes from one year to the next. This is a real aberration and that's been challenging to deal with. We are going to get through it well however I believe. Fortunately we have significant reserves that are going to help us through this period.”
During the presentation to the council Ward 3 Progressive Brian Pine requested an update on current tax payments and the mayor asked Chief Administrative Officer Katherine Schad to respond. “Just to get an idea of what position we're in as a city right now.”
Shad: “We are about $1,400,000 below where we were at this point in last year.”
Pine: “Okay. And so the ramifications of that for the city, in terms of our budget is something that I'd like to hear what impact that has on us going forward.”
Weinberger: “It is the lost revenues that are, really that drive the challenge.”
Weinberger said while the city will defer some priorities he plans to continue making progress on priority programs including promoting racial equity and transforming policing and public safety. “This is a moment where we need to make long overdue progress towards police transformation and racial justice. So the budget has $1.1 million in expense cuts. There's also nearly approximately 800,000 in reallocations to other departments. We are going to immediately allocate $300,000 of these cuts to a new fund for racial equity and police transformation. The remaining $800,000 in expense reductions are going to be needed, you know, for us to have a balanced budget.”
Ward 4 Democrat Sarah Carpenter echoed a few other councilors in desiring more details and analysis of the impacts of the proposed budget, especially cuts to the police department. “I was very interested in the data that Chief Murad provided on calls. Getting that would be very interesting and valuable. He mentioned that each shift is an average of eight people, you know, kind of looking at, okay, in a month, how many shifts how many people on a shift. And not that we should be micromanaging the budget but just to give us an understanding of how is the department staffed with whom, for what. I just would find that very helpful.”
The mayor’s proposed budget does not include employee layoffs or furloughs. The council is not expected to vote on it until at least June 29th.