Cities face cost of virus
Shafter's strong position will help
April 23, 2020 | View PDF
The Shafter City Council held a special meeting on April 16 to discuss budgetary goals for this year, as well as moving forward.
City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez presented a Powerpoint presentation that included the current state of the city, as well as what goals they will have moving toward a post-COVIC-19 community.
Gonzalez said that before the pandemic began, the City of Shafter enjoyed fiscal sustainability, a balanced budget and a pension fund that is funded 100%.
Gonzalez went on to say that due to Shafter’s economic state and its strong reserves, Shafter is in a better position than many cities in the area that might not enjoy such security.
During this current situation, Gonzalez said that there is robust community engagement and council support, while maintaining both nonessential and essential city services.
He went on to list what the council should expect in the post-virus recovery period. He believes that the economy will rebound, though conducting business will not be as usual. He also said that actual financial impacts will unfold in the months after the COVID-19 situation.
Gonzalez said he sees priorities of maintaining financial sustainability, which means preserving the General Fund, as well as being prudent in tapping reserves and capitalizing on economic development opportunities. “There will opportunities during the recovery period of economic growth with new companies possibly coming in. We need to be ready to receive and draw these companies to Shafter,” he told the council.
Public safety is another priority that was discussed. Gonzalez includes the Public Works Department in that category along with the Police Department, since he says maintaining roads is a form of keeping the public safe.
The third priority that will be discussed is employee wellness. Gonzalez said that it is important to continue to provide adequate safety measures to keep city employees safe and healthy.
Gonzalez said one challenge that the city will face in the current and post-COVID-19 situation is the loss of revenue, especially sales tax. With businesses having to either close or modify hours of operation, there will be a dramatic drop in revenue for the city as well. With the state offering a program that will give small businesses an opportunity to defer sales taxes on up to $50,000 in sales for 12 months will also affect the city’s revenue. “We will be facing a double-whammy, as the businesses will not be paying the tax on those sales, so the city may not see that revenue for 12 months,” said Gonzalez.
Specifics on the budgetary issues were not discussed, with Gonzalez saying that more detailed discussions will take place at the first budgetary strategic planning meeting which will be held Tuesday, April 28.