Georgetown officials work to manage increasing costs of coronavirus, potential drop in sales tax revenue

Georgetown Finance Director Leigh Wallace presents to City Council members and staff virtually at a May 12 workshop. (Screenshot courtesy city of Georgetown)
Georgetown Finance Director Leigh Wallace presents to City Council members and staff virtually at a May 12 workshop. (Screenshot courtesy city of Georgetown)

Georgetown Finance Director Leigh Wallace presents to City Council members and staff virtually at a May 12 workshop. (Screenshot courtesy city of Georgetown)

So far, COVID-19 has cost the city of Georgetown about $614,000, Finance Director Leigh Wallace said during a May 12 City Council workshop.

A total of about $244,000 has been spent on supplies, equipment and services, including grants to small businesses; medical and protective supplies; cleaning and sanitizing services and equipment; communications to the public; and day care for the children of city employees.

The value of time citywide comes to about $370,000, Wallace said. It was paid out of existing salary budgets, and tasks included emergency operations planning, emergency operations response and grant management.

Staff will continue to seek grants and estimate a reimbursable amount of $350,000 citywide, Wallace said.

In an effort to reduce costs, the city will hold off on fulfilling 31 full-time equivalent positions for a $440,000 reduction on general fund impact. It will also hold off on staff travel and training to save $280,000 in the general fund.

Other revenue impacts include a $1.4 million decrease in parks and recreation programs and rentals, Wallace said. Staff are anticipating resuming some recreation center, camp and pool services in June. Pools are a net expense, but camps are a net revenue, Wallace said, adding camps that include travel or take place on school campuses and tennis camp are all canceled.

Regarding sales tax revenue, the data lags by two months, so April numbers will not be available until June, Wallace said. Sales tax is the largest and most volatile revenue source for the general and other funds, she said.

The city was showing strong growth trends until March when sales slowed, Wallace said. Grocery store traffic visits were up 10% in March 2020 compared to March 2019, she said, while fast-food visits were down 40%, sit-down style restaurant visits were down 53% and apparel store visits were down 30% year over year.

Wallace provided several model scenarios for assessing sales tax projections but clarified they are estimates only. She said in the best-case scenario, revenue will come in at budget instead of over budget due to the high performance the first half of the year. The worst-case scenario would consist of a $3 million decrease in sales tax revenue citywide.

The reality is probably somewhere in the middle, according to Wallace, and it will depend on April receipts and the ability to get businesses open again and unemployed people back to work.


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