Amherst delays budget process amid COVID-19 pandemic

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/24/2020 2:00:10 PM

AMHERST — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Town Council is pushing back the dates by which budgets for the town, schools and libraries need to be submitted for consideration.

Based on provisions in the town charter, the council on Monday agreed to have the budgets for the elementary and regional schools and Jones Library system due May 1, rather than April 1, and for Town Manager Paul Bockelman to have his budget presented by June 1, rather than May 1.

Bockelman said Tuesday that postponing the budgets for a month is in line with the state of emergency declared in Massachusetts and in town.

In a memo to the Town Council, he wrote: “This pandemic has created extensive financial uncertainty in the town’s revenues, expenses, and budgets for both FY20 and FY21. This uncertainty at all levels of government requires additional time to assess the financial condition of the town, the potential support coming to the town from the state and federal governments, and the economic impact on local residents and businesses who provide the majority of taxes to local government.”

Bockelman said the specifics of the pandemic’s economic impact on Amherst are not yet known, but that revenues are expected to be down sharply. 

“We know it’s not going to be a pretty picture,” Bockelman said.

An initial projection should come at the end of March.

Among the areas where there will be a loss of revenue are from the water and wastewater systems due to the University of Massachusetts closing to all but essential personnel, parking as fewer businesses remain open and meals and lodging taxes as fewer people dine out and visit.

“The bottom dropped out of all of those,” Bockelman said.

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

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