“The next few weeks will be very telling as we restart the economy and see if this (COVID-19) will take off again,” said Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka. While being cautious, Zilka hopes to see a return to some sense of normalcy by the end of summer.
For that reason, the city is not planning any drastic cost cutting, but Zilka has had the city's directors put the brakes on expenditures such as travel-related training.
Part of his cautious but hopeful, approach to the city's current financial picture is that Avon Lake's income tax revenue grew in both March and April 2020 compared to 2019. Many other nearby communities have seen revenues dip after all but essential businesses closed in mid-March to stem the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19.
Finance Director Steve Presley said income tax revenue in March was up 11.63% and in April 8.53% over the previous year. He provided an estimate for May income tax revenue, indicating it would be down nearly $120,000, or 2.26%, compared to May 2019.
The mayor said the city had, thus far, been helped because some of the city' largest employers – including Poly One and Avon Lake City Schools – continued operations. The city's largest employer, Ford Motor Co.’s Avon Lake Assembly Plant, closed in mid-March. It is expected to reopen, with health safety restrictions, Monday, according to a news release from the company. However, the reopening in Avon Lake could not be confirmed.
For that reason, the city will “stay the course” with planned infrastructure projects, including a culvert replacement on Jaycox Road and paving and concrete road repairs. City Council recently approved contracts totaling nearly $2 million for that work.
Travel has been curtailed and required training for safety forces, as an example, is being delivered via online courses, the mayor said.
While the city plans to hire police and firefighter/paramedics as well as an assistant to the director of Public Works to replace retiring staff, it is not yet hiring summer recreation help.
Recreation facilities are closed and cities have not received word from the state about reopening them. Zilka said that recreation department-sponsored summer camps are still on the schedule, but he did not know if they would be held.
As for the pool, the mayor said, if it opens at all, there would likely be limits on the number of people allowed in at one time, and the length of time anyone would be permitted to stay.
Consequently, recreation department fee revenue will be down as will revenue from gasoline tax and the local government fund. Zilka noted that moving the April 15 tax filing deadline to July 1 will place a further strain on municipal budgets.
He said that if the economy does not rebound by the end of summer, the city will rethink its position when it begins planning for fiscal 2021 in September.
Zilka is worried about the city's small-business community. “Some businesses are just not going to make it,” he said. He is pleased the city was able to “throw a lifeline” to particularly hard-hit restaurants and bars when the Community Improvement Corp. teamed with the independent Avon Lake Waterfront Corp., to provide nearly $100,000 in grants to 25 locally owned establishments. “It gives them a little more breathing room to face the challenges they're facing,” he said of the effort.
“I'm hoping for more openings in the next few weeks and that people will shop locally,” Zilka said. “I want them (small businesses) to know their local government is certainly concerned about getting the economy back on its feet. We're doing our best to help them along.”
The mayor provided the following answers to a West Life questionnaire.
Is your community considering any personnel furloughs or layoffs? No, not at this time.
Do you have a hiring freeze in place? It is on a case-by-case basis. Certainly open positions in Police and Fire will be filled.
Will summer recreation/pool help be hired this year? Depends on (the) state's position on social interaction/distancing.
If you are hiring for any positions, what are they? Assistant to director of Public Works due to a retirement.
Are you cutting or terminating any programs? Which ones? For what duration? All recreation programs are currently on hold and will reflect the state’s position on social distancing.
Have you gone forward or halted infrastructure or building projects? Please elaborate. All capital projects are moving forward as scheduled.
How much was the community's income tax revenue down in March 2020 compared to March 2019? We are up 11.63% when comparing 2020 to 2019 and April is up 8.53% compared to (the) same time a year ago. May is expected to be down.
Have other revenue streams been impacted? Which ones? Ex mayor's court, traffic citations, recreation fees, pool passes, facility rental? What is the anticipated aggregate amount of this revenue loss for 2020? Obviously, recreation receipts are down, but so, too, are court fines and facility rentals. Gas tax revenues are expected to decline 40% from $1.25 million received last year.
What other adjustments or cuts to the budget will be made other than personnel, services and infrastructure? TBD based on length of the quarantine and economic conditions. It is too early to determine what, if any, adjustments will be made for 2021 budgets.