Facing a projected significant downturn in revenues as a result of the pandemic, the Montpelier City Council has adopted a “crisis” budget for the fiscal year started July 1 that cuts spending by $1.4 million, which is almost 10 percent of the city’s original fiscal year 2021 budget of $14.9 million, according to City Manager Bill Fraser.
Fraser said the city’s property tax rate and property tax revenues for this fiscal year should be about the same as planned. But other revenue sources — especially parking fees, program fees, PILOT funding, and local option tax revenues — could drop by as much as $1.4 million, he projected.
The major cuts enacted include a hiring freeze ($441,603), delays in roadwork ($366,470), and delays in equipment and vehicle purchases ($336,500). Other cuts include skipping a cost-of-living increase for most city employees ($75,472) and cutting appropriations by 25 percent to the Montpelier Development Corporation, the Arts Fund, the Housing Trust Fund, and the Homelessness Task force. The Ash Borer program is being cut by 20 percent.
Fraser said the City Council plans to review the budget quarterly and see if additional spending can be added back or more cuts are necessary. “The next review will come in October,” he said. He noted that the new budget is “not sustainable” in the long term.
Some planned roadwork will still occur this summer, while other jobs are being delayed. Construction and utility work will continue on Clarendon, Redstone, and Jordan with paving later this summer, according to Kurt Motyka, Deputy Director of Public Works. But work on Dewey, Dwinell, and Cummings has been postponed.
A decision to postpone work on Westwood was made recently, Motyka said. Those resources will instead be used to repave the Bailey Street Bridge and one lane on Memorial Drive. Reconstruction on Taylor Street is expected to start soon, he added.
Asked about East State Street, one of the bumpier major roads in Montpelier, Motyka said that will be a massive project including water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure. Preliminary engineering on the project is getting underway, but the start date could depend on the availability of state funding. “It’s unlikely but possible the work on East State Street could begin next year,” he said.
Some persistent potholes in Montpelier are now being filled after the return July 1 of 10 furloughed workers, including some Public Works employees. The final 15 furloughed city workers will return to employment August 1 under the new city budget.
The furloughs, which started earlier this spring, saved the city about $47,000 in fiscal year 2020 — which ended June 30 and is expected to come out close to being in balance — and will save about $25,000 in the FY2021 budget,
Fraser said the city will be filling some open positions in Public Works in the fall. “Winter will return and people will expect the roads to be plowed,” he said.