While the Town of Amherst was originally projecting to face a $20 million deficit, Town Supervisor Brian Kulpa said they are now expecting it to be approximately $14 million after receiving positive sales tax feedback from the county and taking steps within the town to decrease spending.
The sales tax feedback from the county for the end of March and beginning of April was off by 25% from what the town had projected. According to Kulpa, they were expecting to see a 50% to 80% deficit in sales tax revenue. In addition, the town has taken measures to reduce spending to help minimize the revenue gap created by COVID-19.
“I’ve asked [town departments] to identify [non-personnel] 10% cuts on their expense budgets; we’ve gotten those back,” Kulpa said. “Those, along with some other cuts that we’ve made, along with some hiring decisions and some overtime capping, have allowed us to cut our expected deficit to $14 million. That’s still a lot of money, but it’s considerable progress.”
The Town of Amherst and all of Western New York have officially entered Phase 2 of reopening. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the region would move forward with the reopening process on Monday night.
“We’ve been doing a great job as a community through Phase One,” Kulpa said. “We still need to continue to social distance, to wear masks in public, and make sure that we’re keeping ourselves and our community members safe.”
As the town moves through Phase Two, Kulpa hopes to see restaurants completing more pickup orders. Kulpa said preparations are in the works for different accommodations the town plans to make available to help local businesses.
“We expect that we’re going to be able to accommodate restaurants with a temporary outdoor dining using some of their parking lots,” Kulpa said. “We’re going to get into an opportunity for some of us to be able to get haircuts. We’re going to be able to see more of our normal activities coming back online, like tennis and golf did in Phase One.”
Despite the progress that the town has made, Kulpa warns residents that the novel coronavirus is not gone and that the community still needs to be careful and take the necessary precautions by following state and Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“As we start activities, we [need to] bear in mind that the virus is still out there, and we need to do a good job of suppressing it to be sure that our community can continue over the next six to eight weeks to make sure that our community can get into Phases Three and Four,” Kulpa said. “If we do that, then we’re going to get to Phase Four and be able to have some resemblance of a summer.”
While summer 2020 has already seen many cancellations due to COVID-19, some events remain constant, such as the Williamsville Farmers Market, which is set to open June 6, and the Amherst Garden
Walk on July 11.
The Amherst Garden Walk is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 11. Applications are available online at www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/gj8LUK512ca and must be submitted no later than June 27.
“There’s a lot of activities that have been canceled, but there’s a lot that we’re still able to do. In the months of July and August, it’d be really great if as a community we could see that kind of start up,” Kulpa said. “As a town, we have got a reopening plan that we’re putting into place, the immediate reopening of town services, the returning online of practices, especially those involving childcare.”
Some of the programming Kulpa predicts to be more challenging is senior programs. As the town has made a switch to online programming, however, Kulpa said the feedback has been positive.
“We’ve reverted to a lot of online programming for seniors, and it’s going very well and we’re really excited. Almost 100 signed up for our online yoga classes,” Kulpa said. “We’re going to be doing more and more of that as we move forward here until we can get back into our buildings and start meeting as groups again.”
As the summer goes on, Kulpa expects to see baseball leagues from the spring begin to start and summer sports return in July or August.
“As a community, we’re going to be working hard to keep each other safe, but at the same time working hard to keep our economy moving forward and get people back to work and get people back into the swing of things,” Kulpa said.
Posted by Amherst Bee