The Shafter Press - Serving the community since 1922

By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Cities deal with coronavirus $

Council looks for stabilization

 

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

The city's parks' picnic benches and playground equipment are taped off. The basketball hoops have also been removed. The city is discouraging people from gathering this holiday weekend in the parks around the city.

The City Council is preparing to deal with a dramatic reduction in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez will go over a budget stabilization plan at a workshop on Thursday, April 16, that will reflect the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gonzalez said at a previous meeting that they were looking into the different services the city provides and determining what will happen with those services moving forward. He categorized the services as mandatory, core and discretionary services. "Discretionary services are the wants, or feel good services. We will look at those and determine if they will be reinstated or perhaps budgeted for the upcoming 2020-2021 budget," he said.

Gonzalez has not specified what services are considered discretionary.

At Tuesday night's virtual meeting over the internet, Gonzalez said the Public Health Department had sent out inspectors in recent days, looking into what nonessential businesses still were operating in Shafter and giving them stern warnings on the need for them to stop operation. He also said that the Shafter Police Department will also be reminding businesses that they are not to be open unless they are deemed "essential."

The city is discouraging residents from using the city's parks during this Easter weekend, especially in groups larger than 10 people.

There was nothing said about friends gathering for the Easter holiday, but the city's website reminds residents that visitors should not be in homes, even if they are friends, family that does not live at the residence or other residents. No gatherings are recommended at a person's house, even if everyone is family and have no symptoms or are negative for the coronavirus.

Another point that will be discussed at the workshop is the loss of sales tax that is and will be experienced by the city of Shafter.

Gonzalez informed the Council that there is a program that is helping small businesses in California by allowing them to defer up to $50,000 of sales tax to an interest-free 12-month payment plan.

Offered by the California Department of Taxes and Fees Administration, this will allow businesses with less than $5 million in taxable annual sales to defer the payment of that tax.

"This will mean a double-whammy for the city," Gonzalez said. "We not only lose that sales tax revenue in the immediate, we will also lose the money perhaps for the remainder of the year. We will get the revenue, but it can take up to 12 months to get it."

Councilmember Manuel Garcia thanked Public Works Director Michael James and his crew on getting the street sweeper operational and going again, and also praised the Shafter Police Department for its presence in town and their performance in the city.

On that note, Chief Kevin Zimmermann said that his officers have continued to serve the city with the same dedication and ability throughout this time and have cracked down even further on speeders in residential neighborhoods, as well as other traffic situations in the city. He also informed the council that his department also is working on an investigation that involves a large amount of theft. "I cannot go into specifics because it is an active and fluid investigation, but it involves hundreds of stolen items," he said.

 

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