Montgomery City Council debated different approaches to serving the community during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak at an April 14 virtual meeting.
Although he said he believes it is too soon to tell, City Administrator Richard Tramm projected between a 50%-70% decrease in sales tax revenue for the city as compared to May 2019.
Council Member Rebecca Huss said she is less concerned about the short term but that she expects the long-term effects of this outbreak for small businesses to be what causes problems for the city.
Because the city may see a sharp decrease in revenue, Council Member John Champagne said city departments should look to cut unnecessary expenditures.
“We need to be very mindful of the fact that our revenue is going to be affected, and we need to be as smart as we can be utilizing our personnel,” Champagne said.
Tramm said the city has enough reserves to provide normal services for about six months, but he said they should not rely on savings if revenue continues to be an issue.
Mayor Sara Countryman said she wants the city to develop a plan to provide resources for local small businesses to be able to provide information.
“This is looking like this could potentially be our new normal instead of going back to what normal was a month ago,” Countryman said. “So if we do come back to this normal, do we have a Plan A? Plan B?”
Countryman said she believes the city should also develop relationships with larger entities, such as SuddenLink or Consolidated. She said many residents, including herself, were without internet for five days, and if the city can communicate with providers, it could potentially make the process go more smoothly.
Huss agreed and said the city could find ways to partner with businesses to help support them during the outbreak.
“Even if we have to spend some money to help our businesses or if there are grants available, ... that’s something we could look at,” Huss said. “I’d love to see the city be more aggressive with providing services.”
Outside of regular communication and some smaller additional help, Champagne said he was not sure what the city could do. He said individual accountability has to be a factor.
“There’s an individual effort that has to be made. If the city can do something, great. But we can’t hold everyone’s hand,” Champagne said. “If the internet’s down, get off your can and do something.”
In other city news, Tramm said city departments are working as normal, with City Hall closed to walk-ins and most business conducted over the phone. Police officers are trying to maintain social distancing by using discretion when initiating traffic stops, taking reports by phone and limiting responses to accidents to those with potential or actual injuries, according to Tramm.
“The police department probably has the hardest job finding the balance between public safety and public health,” Tramm said.