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Supervisor's Corner: The Town of Webster 2020 Budget and COVID-19

By Webster Town Supervisor Tom Flaherty

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There is no doubt that when the Town Board and the department heads collaborated in mid-2019 on the town’s 2020 budget, they never imagined the effect COVID-19 would have on it. They used the time-tested and traditional means to come up with the budget, such as historical department expenses and the 2% tax cap.


Simply said... the board and department heads did a great job of producing a final 2020 budget that balanced the departmental needs to perform their services, and the fiscal responsibility the town taxpayers should expect from the board members. That is not an easily accomplished balance, as the town department heads often are challenged with the same dilemma I encountered in my 30 years in private industry; “American business in the last half century is expecting more, but with less resources.” Those resources can be personnel, newer equipment, and/or newer facilities.


Between March 13 and April 7, I convened the department heads in Webster eight times to give COVID-19 updates so they could go back to their staffs with the information. Initially, these update meetings were all in person, but as time has gone on with the social distancing mandated by COVID-19, they became more teleconferences. Also, the first few weeks were “changing by the minute” as to what we were presenting to the department heads due to daily federal, state, and county executive orders. As things smoothed out the past two weeks and we entered our “new norm,” I presented to the department heads the 3 main things we will be focusing on in the April 6-May 1 timeframe:

  1. Safety of our employees,

  2. Maximizing Productivity, and

  3. Researching and pursuing every means of reimbursement possible.

The safety aspect is based on the fact that more than half of the town’s 230+ full-time and year-round, part-time employees are out of work right now due to mandated facility closures and non-essential staff designations being told to go home. The staff that is still working we want to BE and FEEL as safe as possible. I capitalized “be” and “feel” because they can mean different things to an employee in the Sewer Department versus one in the Assessment Office. We are trying to respect that.


On productivity, we are trying to “think outside the box” and make lemonade out of the lemons that COVID-19 has dealt us. The taxpayers deserve to have this productivity maximized so that when we return to full staff and all facilities open, we don’t enter a phase of heavy overtime to catch up. On reimbursements, the 2020 budget to actual in the town will ultimately come down to how successful at this we are. We have people NOT working who are getting paid. We have budgeted revenues in 2020 such as Rec. Center fees, and sales tax that will be significantly less than what we anticipated. No doubt that the 2020 budget will not balance to the actuals on revenues and expenses due to the 1, 2, 3+ months we are affected by the COVID-19 shutdown.


I’m confident that between the Finance Director, Town Attorney, and other department heads that we will maximize these reimbursements from federal, state, and/or county agencies so as to minimize or eliminate the effect on the 2020 budget and the taxpayers of the town. Hopefully, upon execution of that... we’ll be entering the 2021 budget development season!


As always, feel free to call me at (585) 872-7068 or e-mail me at supervisor@ci.webster.ny.us


STAY SAFE AND HEALTHY, WEBSTER!

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***Please consider donating to Webster Online’s GoFundMe to keep this independently-run news site operating and Webster residents informed during these challenging times.***

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