Local businesses are “critical” to the city’s economy, McGrail said in a statement April 22.
Businesses help improve residents’ quality of life through contributions from property taxes and sales taxes that support parks, road maintenance, police and fire departments, and more, he said.
“While we do not yet know all the long-term effects COVID-19 will have on Keller, city staff are already taking steps to adapt,” McGrail said.
To help the city weather the storm, nonessential capital expenditures, smaller planned expenditures and new debt issuances are on hold, McGrail said. City staff has also been temporarily reduced to full-time employees only, and City Manager Mark Hafner has instituted a hiring freeze.
Citywide sales tax revenue, through February, was outpacing city staff projections by 9.4%, McGrail said. With the onset of the coronavirus, new projections from city staff indicate a shortfall of $780,000 in sales tax revenue alone, he said. Additional decreases in revenue are anticipated due to a decline in mixed-beverage taxes, permit fees and court revenue.
City staff are “making adjustments to reflect the anticipated revenue loss as part of our fiscal year 2021 budget prep,” McGrail said.
McGrail noted the many hardships that have hit the business community. While grocery stores have seen a spike in business, home improvement stores have experienced an “ebb and flow,” he said.
Meanwhile, restaurants and retailers that have been forced to close, such as gyms and salons, have been hit the hardest, McGrail said.
“City Council earlier this month approved plans to form a task force charged with offering suggestions to city leadership about long-term recovery efforts for Keller businesses,” he said.
The task force will seek recovery solutions for all types of Keller businesses, McGrail said.
The task force includes Council Members Beckie Paquin and Chris Whatley, Keller Chamber of Commerce President JoAnn Malone, Keystone Church Pastor Rob Patterson, and a number of local business owners representing restaurants and retailers.
“We could see the first presentation from this group to City Council as early as the May 5 meeting,” McGrail said.
Additionally, McGrail noted resident concerns about household budgets, particularly home appraisals and property taxes.
The city’s current property tax rate of $0.3999 is at its lowest in decades, he said, and the city has increased the homestead exemption from 1% to 12% in recent years in order to “mitigate” increased valuations by the Tarrant Appraisal District.
“Recent weeks have been a challenge for all of us, but we will adapt and overcome,” McGrail said. “As we dig further into the budget process and continue work on the recovery of this amazing community in the weeks ahead, stay tuned and stay in touch.”