Q & A from Town Meeting Members

How to use this page:  You can do a Control-F and search for a word that would be in the name of the Article or the Article number to see if someone has asked a question on that item:

Schools Article Operating Budget

There is no backup for Article #2. Please provide backup or a high-level summary of transfers for this.  If I understand this Article, it is the difference between what was budgeted per category and what we expect to spend per category for the year ended June 30, 2021.

Answer: Article 2 is being withdrawn. 

FYI – B-Line is mentioned several times throughout the document, there is no B-Line anymore

Answer: Yes it does. We read that as the local transportation program, because BLine was sort of the marketing name. Maybe we will look to change that in the fall if it is confusing. 

Several departmental budgets approved by W&M for FY ’21 are different than what is shown as FY ’21 budgeted amounts in the FY ’22 document.  Is this due to the reduction of expenses voted in September 2020 (?) Town Meeting?

Answer: Yes that is the case. (but if you want me to check a specific budget let me know)

Assessors Budget – Please explain the changes in salary and contracted services from year to year

Answer: There was $20k moved between the two accounts to offset any additional support we may need with the director role changing.

Assessor Department 
Questions from Shari:
  • Where is the reduction of the Assessor's salary and the increase in contracted services accounted for (approximately a $40,000 difference)? 
  • Is the retired Assessor also receiving a pension?
  • Is the contract available on the Town Website or can it be provided? 
  • What is the current plan for the Board of Assessor's to retain a new Town Assessor?
Response from James Doherty - Town Appraiser/Assistant Assessor

  • Attached please see a summary of the Budget request submitted by our department. This provides a clear summary of previous years and the FY22 requested amount. 
    In addition I have attached the updated document once changes were made after discussions with the financial team.
  • The Assessing department is well positioned to deliver the services to the taxpayers at the same high level we have in the past. I continue to deliver all the services I had 
    previously provided and again handled this years DOR certification of values as well as the tax rate setting process seamlessly. The Board and staff has access to me anytime it is needed.
  • As Paul Sagarino has informed you, he has had numerous discussions with BOA members about the staffing in the department and supported this decision. 
    Humbly I would suggest the Town is fortunate that during a pandemic and a shortage of seasoned assessing professionals (numerous communities have been unable to recruit 
    competent talent) to have such a talented professional willing to continue to serve them through these difficult times. The Board of Assessors continues to always strive for the best and
     most financially beneficial way to deliver our services to the taxpayers of Burlington. I am under contract until September 2022.
  • Neither the Town of Burlington nor the Board of Assessors dictate when employees chose to retire, so you are correct, the BOA did not vote to "approve' my decision to retire. 
    In fact, my decision to retire had nothing to do with assessing. 
  • It is my understanding that numerous Town officials have employment contracts and I have never been aware of those being posted to the Town website. I will defer to Town counsel 
    whether it is a public document or not. Regarding any pension, I find it irrelevant to the budget question.
  • Lastly, the innuendo that this was somehow done in a nefarious way is simply not true. As previously noted, the Town Administrator, members of the financial team and Ways and Means 
    members were aware that I planned to retire at some point. I would point you to the minutes of August and September of 2020 which mention this issue. The BOA did in fact vote to execute 
    a contract. I must have missed it in my notes, and will have the BOA revise the minutes from that meeting.
  • Additonal Backup for Assessors Budget.

Letter from Board of Assessors Chairman,

To Town Meeting Members:
I would like to take this opportunity to respond to questions that arose at Monday night's Town Meeting as it pertains to the Board of Assessors and Jim Doherty's employment status in particular. 
Jim is presently a Consultant to the Town of Burlington, having retired in September of 2020. He had been planning his departure for some time prior and notified all of his intentions. Jim's experience in the Assessing and Appraisal field is highly desired. At that time, in order to bridge the gap, the Town thought it would be prudent to retain Jim's services, while a search for Jim's eventual replacement would take place. As many towns in the State, in particular a couple of neighboring municipalities have discovered, there is a lack of knowledgeable, qualified candidates. Hence the decision was made to bring Jim on board as a Consultant, a wise transaction in consideration of what the Board and, Jim mostly, has and will be facing during this pandemic. We anticipate many filings, some of which may well lead to the Appellate Tax Board.  The Board and the Town negotiated a contract in good faith, that was agreeable to both sides. The contract SAVED the Town approximately $40,000 annually as he is no longer an employee, and all that entails.
In closing, the Board, his colleagues at Town Hall and most of the citizens of Burlington would agree, that retaining Jim's services, at a cost savings, was a very positive move by the Town.   

Paul Sheehan
Chairman, Board of Assessors

Attachments area

Treasurers Budget – If there is one less head in the FY ’22 budget, why are salaries $10k more than FY ’21?

Answer: The budget was decreased as part of the $2.1M operating adjustment in September so that set the new base. The $10k is the normal contractual increase for FY22 based on one less person. That position will remain unfilled in FY22.   

Building – the text on page 61 says it brought in $1.4m – this does not agree with the $1m on page 30

Answer: Page 30 is just the budgeted local receipt number. 


  1. Please confirm the $81k for salary, approved by Town Meeting for the DEI Director has not been spent or accrued in FY ‘21 as I believe the new Director starts July 1, 2021.


  1. Negotiated Salary Adjustments – the increase between total school personnel budget from year to year equals $1,752,190 ($49,629,632 - $47, 877,442, net of $90k from budget reduction last year).  This is a 3.65% increase for FY ’22 payroll.  What period does this $1,752,190 increase cover?  If this is one year, should we expect the same level of increase next year?  I understand some of this increase is due to step increases as well as salary increases.  Approximately how much of the increase is step related?   

Special Revenue Accounts – Balances as of March 31, 2021

Ice Palace – Balance has not changed since 3.31.20, I assume this was COVID closed however it shows there were no expenses – is that true?  Do we have debt on the building?  If so, shouldn’t the interest be charged here?

Answer: There was a delay in receipts for this account. They came in during April. We do not have debt for the rink, and I believe the operating costs are paid by the management company. The last charges were in FY17 and 18 for some landscaping and parking lot paving expenses. 

Sale of Recyclables – Based on the description in the backup for this, it seems there should be more than $30k in expenses over the last two years.    We can’t offset more expenses to this?

Answer: I believe this is where we buy the toters, but I will have to reach out to the department head to get more details on this.

Town-wide Insurance Reimbursement – What were the two largest reimbursements and explanations

Answer: The largest payments have been for the BHS water damage in the gym. 

Sale of Cemetery Lots – I do not see this category in the backup listing starting on page 17 of the backup.  Why are there no expenses over the last two years?

Answer: The accounts on page 17 are accounts that are only those set up through MGL Ch44S53e1/2. Several years ago, with the municipal modernization act, there departmental revolving accounts were added to a bylaw with the carry over limitations that are voted every year. The sale of lots account is allowable under a different statute MGL Ch114S15, and is what is known as a receipts reserved account. It doesn't have any expenses because in order to spend money from this account it must first be approved by town meeting as an appropriation.

Ambulance – I do not see this category in the backup listing.  Please explain source and possible expense offsets

Answer: See above. It is a receipts reserve account under MGL Ch40S5f. This was set up a few years ago to capture the revenues from providing the ALS services. We expect to be back at Sept or Jan TM with a more comprehensive report of the expected annual revenues and a proposed usage plan which would included offsetting certain costs related to running at the ALS level. 

School lunch program – in FY ’20, we offset almost $300k from the operating budget.  While an exact balance for this category, deficit or otherwise, can not be determined now, what is the plan to cover any potential deficit?  Also, there has been a recurring deficit balance is this account so more broadly from the FY ’22 question, what is the plan to minimize or eliminate these deficit balances in the future?

 Lease of surplus space – What expenses can be offset to this account?  What is the monthly income and is there a contract for the tenant on the website?

 School Rentals – For the last few years, TM has funded approximately $43k for this category as is the case this year in Article #24.   There is money is the School Rental revolving account which I believe is for the same purpose which is funding janitorial coverage for non-school events.  If so, why is there a separate warrant article for this instead of using the money in the revolving account.  Also, not clear on how or if we spent the $43k last year on non-school events due to COVID.

 School Day Care – do we expect a deficit as of June 30, 2021?

Capital Budget Requests

Article 7-3:  $200k for Drainage Repair / Stream Cleaning

To me, this seems like a DPW infrastructure maintenance item - We have the item every year, it is about the same amount and DPW manages the activity.  There is no 'Capital' associated with this item.
For FY2023 - Can this be moved into the DPW budget and removed as a capital item.

Answer: This article started out as a special program a bunch of years past. While we do it often, it is still  optional. There is a danger in moving items into the operating budget, as they then can become written in stone, and no longer questioned.  It's easier to say "no" to an article than to remove an item from the operating budget.

Good thought though and I could argue that we are expending "capital" .  

Bill Beyer,  Moderator

Article 7.13 – Has the Rec Department talked with the COA about sharing the COA accessible van?

Answer: I will get with the department head, but when that was talked about there would only be a few times where that van could be available, and this ask is for a larger vehicle. 

Article 7.16 – Dispenser – No CARES or related funding for this?

Article 7.19 – Town Common – There is approximately $3k (no change in last two years) in the revolving fund.  Why can’t we use this toward this request?

Answer: I think it could be, but that fund is more for the regular replacement costs, and the purpose of this article was more of a bigger one time improvement. 


COVID Funding Update

May we please have an update with details on the funding received from State and Federal Government related to COVID, how it was spent and what if any is anticipated in the future.  This request is town-wide, that is, Town Administration and Schools.

Answer:  This may be a little complex for this email, but see below.....

For FY20 and FY21 there are a few different buckets of funding that have been made available through the CARES Act. 

The biggest is the Coronavirus Relieve Fund (CvRF), which has a municipal program and two school programs. There are some smaller programs for the BOH, and other smaller programs that are connected to the Town, but are for businesses not the Town (micro-grants).   

The Total allotments are:

CvRF - Municipal Program -  $2.5M (requested around $2M so far)

CvRF - School Reopening - $790K (requested all)

CvRF - School ESSERF - $112k (requested all)

DPH - BOH - $40k (received all)

There is also FEMA/MEMA reimbursement available for some costs. Those were 75% reimbursement for eligible costs, and we were allowed to use the CvRF for the 25%, so we submit to FEMA/MEMA first and then to CvRF. This program has changed for FY22, but details are still being worked out. We have used these funds mostly for PPE, backfilling quarantine public safety, sanitizing/cleaning services and equipment, plexiglass, air exchange improvements, remote learning and telework needs. This biggest issue with these programs has been around what is eligible for reimbursement or allowable to be charged to CvRF. The costs need to be for unbudgeted and unexpected expenses directly related to Covid. This is very limiting, and then the regulations keep changing to make it more difficult.  

However, for FY22 there is the ARPA funding, which the amounts and guidelines for spending are not out yet. They are promised to be less restrictive so we are anxiously awaiting these guidelines......

Questions about DPW Articles

  • Article 7-2: I appreciate a 10 year replacement program for vehicles; Is the list provided in the DPW operating budget a complete list of all DPW vehicles, and can you provide the 10 year replacement plan?
See attached
  • Article 7-3: I am confused by the Capital 10 year plan and the requested funding for the sewer pump stations: Grandview rehabilitation and design are requested in the Warrant Article; however are in the Capital Plan for 2023 and 2024.
We are asking for funds for VFD and pump upgrade for the Grandview station (this is a minor repair), The Grandview full rehabilitation is a much larger project which we are scheduling for 2023

  • The article also states that Terrace Hall has been completely renovated. Is the pump that needs to be replaced defective or covered by warranty?
The Terrace Hall station is 10 years old, and all equipment is out of warranty.  As compared to the other stations which are 50+ years, the Terrace Hall renovation is "new".  (Which means that we are not planning multi million dollar improvements there, only minor pump and equipment replacement in the future.)
What specifically is the $80,000. requested to cover?
The $80,000 will cover the cost of replacing one pump and VFD (variable frequency drive, which manages the pump velocity to match the flow coming into the station to the flow leaving the station) at the Grandview stationand replace one VFD drive at the Terrace Hall pump station
  • Article 7-7: Original cost of Library roof: $220,000.  Additional cost of $350,000 requested.  Why was the cost of the  insulation and repair/replace of skylight not budgeted in the original estimate? $350,000 seems quite an added expense - is there an explanation as to what portion of the request is for insulation cost and what portion is for a skylight and why so much?
I agree the cost is high.  We received the original estimate based on replacing the rubber roof only (no changes to the insulation).  Once we hired an architect for the design of this project, it was found that code requirements call for additional insulation (which means we need to remove what it's existing and install new insulation).  In addition, because the new insulation is thicker, we need to increase the height of the curbing holding the skylight.  Therefore the skylight needs to be removed and replaced to properly complete the job.The skylight is estimated to cost approximately $67,000.  As you know, all projects go out to bid, so we will know the exact costs once bids are open.  

What's the warranty on the library roof once replaced?

we specified a 20 year warranty for the library roof, and we expect the roof life to be  30  years

John Sanchez, DPW Director

  • Article #7-8 Demolition of Property

How did the Town become owner of this property?

I researched this question and I believe the Town purchased the house for a possible future expansion of the Town Hall Parking lot.   

What was its use for the Town?

  For a long period of time it was rented out as affordable housing.  

Why did the Town let this asset deteriorate to the point of needing tear down?  

  At about the time the DPW became in charge of facilities, the family that was occupying the house moved out.  At that time we were able to enter the property and learned of its decrepit condition.  The cost to renovate it to be rented again was astronomical and the decision was made to clean it up and shut it down.   

If not being used, why wasn’t it maintained and sold before it reached this state?

See above.  Prior to DPW entering the property we were unaware of the condition.

There is a real estate boom in this town, why don’t we sell it now or perhaps after teardown?

This is one of the options the town would have, which is one of the reasons we are not moving forward with the article at this point.

  • Article #23: With the additional funding received from the State grant, has there been any consideration for a crossing signal to be included for the new section of Terrace Hall Ave sidewalk (similar to the one at Francis Wyman School crossing)? The original total sidewalk cost was $150,000 (including $30,000 from Ferguson) and that was to include crosswalks, signage and ramps. any costs associated with a crossing.
The actual bid costs are much higher than the $150,000 (the low bid was  $238K).  However, with the existing funds and grant funds we will install pedestrian crossings at the Middlesex Turnpike.

John Sanchez

--------------------------------------------------- -

Article #22
 regarding the Will of Marshall Simonds.
Understanding that Town Meeting needs to approve the acceptance of this gift on two separate votes (June and September, I believe), we are typically given some back-up as to how the Recreation Department/Commission plans to spend the funds.  Is that list available at this time?
  • Each year the Simonds Trust Trustees approve projects presented by our staff.  We are working on scheduling a meeting with the Trustees to discuss potential projects.  We generally meet in the late Spring.
    Brendan Egan, Director of Parks and Recreation


Questions about School Articles

Article 7-14: 
Is the difference between the proposed FY21 request (pulled) for $900,000 and the FY22 request of $725,000, the removal of the optional equipment?
- I have included the request for the field from last year. The optional equipment was included on both for our consideration, but we are not requesting funding for it.

If so, I see that shock absorption is recommended, and has there been any input from medical professionals (Trainers/ PhysicalTherapists) to illicit their opinion as to the safety and health of the runners (i.e. increased shin splints and injury due to lack of cushion)? 

- The shock absorption option is recommended from the vendor who supplied the quote. We are looking to maintain consistency with other turf fields in our league and surrounding communities, with the shock material. Do other communities have the additional shock material - this is not clear to me.

What is the Alternative infill material for the additional cost and what are the advantages? Having known a former BHS student who was severely allergic to the current infill, would this alternative address that issue?

- the Shock absorption material is not infill material but rather a shock absorption layer that would go under the fiber and infill of the turn field. The material is called GeoFlo+: https://geosurfaces.com/geoflo-plus-2/  I repeat my question what is the Alternative infill material and is there a benefit- it is listed separate from the shock absorption material and for a separate cost ($45,000)

Article 7-15: Is the existing lock system at Francis Wyman School the original? 

- I assume you are referring to the Clock system? Yes, apologies for the typo! The clock System and Intercom at Francis Wyman are not original to the building, but were installed during the renovations from 94-96.
How old is it? 
-The System is approximately 27 years old 

I see no contingency fee allocated?  Is this included in some of the numbers and not called out? 

- The estimate is provided based on the engineers research of comparable systems. This project will need to go out for bid before we know the exact final costs.

Is there any additional funding necessary to complete the project (structural engineer was not allocated - any anticipated need for one?)

- The engineer who provided the estimate has indicated that a structural engineer is not required. This would be a replacement of the existing systems, with the newer systems being slightly more compact.

Article 7-16: Will the annual expenses of the products be part of the Schools operating budget? 

- Yes the costs will be included in the schools operating budget.

Will there be a cost to the student for the product?

- There will be no cost for the product.

 Has there been a discussion regarding prevention of theft?

- There have been discussions, but we will need to monitor the usage moving forward. We are expecting higher usage in the High school and Middle School.

Article 7-17: Are the areas that are in need of sealing (roof) and weather-stripping (doors) part of any recent renovations? If so, would they be covered under any warranty?

-The requests for weatherization are not part of any recent renovations and are not part of warranty. The roofs on the Middle and High schools are under warranty for the work provided. The roof's themselves are not in question, but the connection of the I-Beams to the exterior walls. Those roofs have an outer lip edge and drain to the center of the building.

Robert Cunha
Director of Operations

Can you provide an update on the community custodial services.Assuming that in FY20 and FY21, due to building shutdowns there were many groups that did not 
use the schools for their programming for part of the year; if that is correct, will these excess funds be returned to the general fund?  Also, is it anticipated that all 
the groups will be back in the schools for the entire FY22 year?
Prior year warrant articles remain open year-over-year until they are fully spent or voted to be closed out at end of year by the respective department.  Funds for articles that are closed with a 
remaining balance are returned in conjunction with their original funding source; free cash would close out to the general fund at the end of the fiscal year.

The status of prior year community custodial articles that are still open is as follows;

MAY 2019
 MAY 2020 

The choice to open our facilities again for outside groups is at the discretion of the School Committee.  And as far as what those outside groups have planned for resuming activities within their 
programs when our facilities do become available, I'm not sure.  The article was written assuming a typical year.  As i'm sure you know, the funds can only be spent for the purpose in which 
they were appropriated.