Amherst’s revenues tracking OK amid pandemic

  • Amherst Town Hall FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/1/2021 1:11:38 PM

AMHERST — Revenues from various sources, including local property and excise taxes, that support Amherst’s operating budget are on track to be sufficient to meet the $79.6 million spending plan despite continuing impacts of the pandemic.

But in a quarterly budget update that shows how the town is faring halfway through the fiscal year that ends June 30, a significant concern remains with the transportation enterprise fund, with steep drops in revenue associated with the town’s parking system.

Sonia Aldrich, the town’s comptroller, told the Finance Committee last week that Amherst has done better than expected revenue-wise, even without considering the $3.4 million the town received in federal CARES Act funding.

“The revenues is a really good story all on its own,” Aldrich said.

The $41.88 million in revenues as the town reaches the halfway point in the fiscal year is only down $129,773 from the $43.17 million in revenues collected at the same point last year.

The budgets for the town, schools and library were all developed with lower revenues forecast. So far, the revenues will be enough to meet the $24.6 million town budget, $23.8 million budget for elementary schools, $16.4 million regional school assessment, and $2.04 million appropriation for the Jones Library.

Hotels and motels tax collections, though, were at just $40,332, 74% lower than the $152,329 in the first six months of the previous fiscal year, and meals taxes were $141,830, 48% down from the $270,465 collected from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2019. But Aldrich said the town has already exceeded the $125,000 budgeted for meals tax for the entire fiscal year, and that the budget didn’t anticipate any revenue from hotels and motels. 

Aldrich called the transportation fund, with a budget of $838,222, “the problem child” among enterprise funds.

“We are down 56% from this time last year in revenues,” Aldrich said, and what revenue is coming in does so “very slowly.”

Through the second quarter ending Dec. 31, 2019, the transportation fund had collected $522,233. This year, though, it brought in just $227,908. This was reflected in significant drops in people parking in downtown Amherst, such as coins placed in street meters falling from $114,636 to $49,214, pay by phone reserved spaces declining from $94,021 to $30,225 and credit card payments for spaces dipping from $87,334 to $22,819.

Aldrich said the fund may require transfers from the general fund, especially when the town is obligated to pay PVTA and UMass Transit for outreach routes.

The last fiscal year ended with a deficit of $244,838 in the transportation fund that depended on a similar transfer.

Sewer and water funds are also not quite up to the revenues, with the water fund at $1.84 million, or 41.6% of the $4.4 million budget, and the sewer fund at $2.02 million, or 46.7% of the $4.33 million budget. This was expected due to the University of Massachusetts having significantly fewer people on campus, but was somewhat offset by the water rate going up from $3.90 per 100 cubic feet to $4.20, and the sewer rate rising from $4 per 100 cubic feet to $4.60.

The solid waste fund has actually improved. Aldrich attributes this to people not venturing out and traveling. The $368,975 in revenues is already almost 70% of the projected $538,916 budget.

“A lot of people have been staying home and cleaning their yards and their houses and bringing stuff in,” Aldrich said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

Jobs



Support Local Journalism


Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy