The City of Wauseon is likely to take a financial hit from increased unemployment rates during the COVID-19 pandemic but the prospect for rebounding is optimistic.
The end of March saw a $23,584.67 – or 2.33% – decrease in city income tax revenue, as compared to the income tax revenue at the same year-to-date point in 2019. The city has also experienced a drop of $24,790.81 – or 3.34% – in utility funds for the same time period.
Finance Director Jamie Giguere said the loss of city income tax revenue due to businesses closings or using minimal staff will probably affect Wauseon’s general and capital funds, but “it is impossible to tell at this time how much the COVID-19 will impact the city’s income tax revenue.”
As of March 31, the city’s general fund totaled $391,842.24; the capital fund held $2,226,583.54. Year-to-date revenues total 27.33% of estimate, as compared to 29.20% for the same time in 2019. Incurred expenses year-to-date totaled 14.10% of budget, compared to 22.489% in year-to-date actual expenses the same time last year.
Thus far, no full-time city employees have faced layoff. Giguere said city spending is being closely monitored during the pandemic, and government grants are being sought to ease the rising cost of personal protective equipment for first responders.
“The department heads are reviewing their budgets to see where they can tighten their spending to relieve some of the strain we could see in the future,” she said.
Police, fire, water, and sewer services will continue to operate, and there has been no cancellation or suspension of any other city services or events, Giguere said. But social distancing regulations have, for now, halted recreation programs, the annual spring clean-up, and shelter house rentals.
“The city will be diligent in its spending and aim to keep employment at its current rate,” she said. “Depending on the severity of the COVID-19 economic impact the city may have to use its capital reserves. We will continue to use caution in our spending moving forward until we can get our reserves back to normal.”
Mayor Kathy Huner said it’s difficult to predict the city’s future financial status.
“Due to the extension of the April 15 income tax now not coming in until July 15? We do not know how the shutdown of small businesses and layoffs in our industrial sector will affect our city moving forward,” she said. “We are aware it will have some form of an impact due to the layoffs.”
Huner said the city will have to grip tightly to the 2020 budget. She said administrators will consider cutting unnecessary projects, if necessary, pending the city’s third- and fourth-quarter budget reports.
“I’m optimistic in saying that, as Governor DeWine begins opening up our economy and state, we as citizens of Wauseon will continue to support our city by shopping local and dining local,” she said. “This is one way that we can help with the recovery of our own economy in moving forward.”
Giguere said Wauseon’s recovery will be dependent on employment numbers.
“Some belt tightening may be necessary, depending how deep and how long the impact from COVID-19 turns out to be” she said. “At this stage, we are optimistic that the city’s practices and services can remain as they are, but, at this time, there can be no guarantee.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.