After City Manager Kurt Sacha presented ways to cut spending by $2.5 million, the Longview City Council Thursday night agreed to a two-month “pause” on further action until the city knows the full financial impact of COVID-19.
Sacha stressed that he will continue to watch the economy and keep the council updated during the pause.
To shrink a projected $5 million funding gap for 2020, Sacha said he’s already imposed a number of cost-saving measures. These include an immediate hiring freeze, which has saved about $729,000, and suspending travel and training.
He also saved about $650,000 by reducing the amount of money transferred to building and vehicle depreciation funds. However, these are not long-term solutions, he said. They will help get the city through the near-term.
The city also saved $385,000 when the second street crew was disbanded after voters approved an initiative in the fall that eliminated the transportation benefit district.
Other measures include reducing services from other government agencies and reducing how much money is transferred into a fund to pay out retirement benefits.
With these measures already in place, Sacha recommended waiting another two months to see the full impact of the stay-home order. At that time, the city will have sales tax reports from March and April, when statewide closures went into effect.
The stay home orders and business closures are expected to significantly dent city sales tax revenue. This decrease makes up most of the projected $4 million revenue shortfall this year.
In addition, the city was expected to spend about $1 million more than its budgeted revenue before the pandemic. So the loss of revenue due to the virus actually leaves a $5 million gap between projected 2020 revenue and expenditures.
As Longview moves into the 2021-22 budget cycle, Sacha said the city may consider eliminating overtime where possible, eliminating seasonal and temporary positions, and keeping operational expenses to a minimum.
Sacha said he hopes he’s being too conservative in his estimates.
Mayor MaryAlice Wallis thanked Sacha for his efforts to preserve staff positions while keeping the city fiscally responsible.
“This 60-day pause is excellent and it shows the kind of dedicated leadership and thoughtful approach that we have in our city manager,” she said.
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