ASHLAND – The uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic has caused in the economy has caused city officials to freeze spending.
During the Ashland City Council meeting last Thursday, held via teleconference, City Administrator Jessica Quady told the council that the city is facing a decrease in revenue due to a potential decline in sales tax receipts, keno income and property tax proceeds.
A dip in keno income is already noticeable. The city’s keno operator, BW’s Pub and Grill owned by Brian Whitehead, had to the dining room and keno has suffered as a result.
“It’s a fraction of what he usually does,” Quady said.
The city won’t know the effect the pandemic is having on sales tax receipts for a while, as it takes about two months for the state to distribute the revenue to the city, Quady explained.
Property taxes are another unanswered question, Quady said, as it will depend on when people go back to work and if a recession begins.
“It’s hard to tell what will happen with property taxes,” she said.
The city also lost about $2,500 by not charging late fees for utilities on the most recent bill. The city council decided last month not to charge the fees to help lessen the economic burden of the pandemic on residents.
As a result of the reduced revenue streams, Quady said she instituted a spending freeze on everything except necessary purchases and the city will be delaying some projects.
“Some budget items are pushed back that don’t have to be done immediately,” she said.
The city has paid about $10,000 so far to employees who have been unable to work because of the closure of the city library, Quady also reported.
The city also paid three employees while they were quarantined at home after possible exposure to the coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19. Quady said the employees tested negative and have returned to work.
There is some hope that the Federal Emergency Management Agency may be able to reimburse the city for some of the expenses incurred because of the pandemic, Quady said. That would not include the loss of revenue suffered by the city, however, she added.