Northwest Hills Council of Governments logo.
Northwest Hills Council of Governments logo.

NORTHWEST CORNER — The COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant impact on municipal budgets both now and into the future, according to Rick Lynn, Executive Director of the Northwest Hills Council of Governments (NHCOG)
NHCOG is the coordinating body for chief elected officials maintained by 21 municipalities in Northwest Connecticut and includes municipal officials from Barkhamsted, Colebrook, New Hartford, Norfolk, Torrington, and Winsted.
Lynn said that, while many municipal managers and boards of finance have already put together their budgets for fiscal 2020-2021, many of them will have to take a closer look and possibly adjust them due to the pandemic.
“I think that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in chief elected officials looking at ways of minimizing the potential tax impact on their residents and businesses,” Lynn said. “These towns are going to try hard to minimize local government costs so that the impact can be minimized to residents that are being adversely affected. One example of minimizing costs is in Goshen where the town is suspending their capital improvement projects for the time being so they can wait to see how things go in regards to the pandemic.”
Lynn said that there will be many potential extra costs to municipalities due to the pandemic.
“These extra costs could include paying for additional transportation costs for moving potential COVID-19 patients from point a to point b,” Lynn said. “Towns could also be paying for food and groceries to get to residents who are quarantined and don’t have access to basic services.”
Lynn said that towns could also have to pay for hotel rooms or locations where quarantined patients need to go, along with personal protective equipment for municipal employees.
“While we anticipate that a significant percentage of those costs will be covered by the federal government, there still may very well be a local share to help cover those costs,” he said.
As for school district budgets, Lynn said that there might be a chance for cost savings due to a lack of school bus operations.
“But there are still teachers to pay and school buildings to keep up,” he said. “I am confident that, as painful as things are right now, that the towns will eventually financially recover. But it will be far longer and more painful than any of us would like to see. We have a strong will in our communities to help one another and face all of our obstacles. I am thankful for our emergency responders from the department of emergency management, homeland security, and our local health districts. The first responders at the local level, many of whom are volunteers, are still just giving so much of their time and commitment to minimize the impact of the virus in our towns. I can’t say enough about what those folks are doing to help us get through this.”