COVID-19 Impacts UP City Finances, Services

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everything from city services and finances to city projects.

City Manager Robbie Corder said, as of March 1, the city was projecting a general fund surplus at the midpoint of this year before the pandemic hit. Now, he said the city is looking at about a $1 million shortfall in revenue in the general fund because of the virus.

“We’re tracking toward about a $100,000 deficiency in the general fund,” Corder said. “We’re looking at somewhat of a substantial decline in sales tax. The good news, if there is any, on that front, is before the virus came to University Park and Texas, we were doing quite well. In fact, we were having one of our better sales tax years. So we’re just projecting for a 20% decline moving forward.”

He said the sales tax numbers for March showed about a 16% decline.

“Best case scenario for us is we’re able to bring that $100,000 back to a positive by the end of the year. Worst case scenario is we would ask the council to draw down on the fund balance to cover that at the end of the year, so I think we’re in a good position through September 30. Where this gets really tricky and where we have a really big challenge is going to be for the budget for fiscal year 2021…we’re going to have to drop sales tax, we’re going to drop building permit fees, and property values are going to lag to be completely honest,” Corder said. “We don’t quite yet know where that’s going to go.”

He added that department heads have limited discretionary spending right now.

“We’re trying to be wise with the money and make sure that we’re not doing anything that we don’t have to because…we are going to have a shortfall in revenue,” Corder said. 

He also confirmed the city had one employee who was diagnosed with COVID-19. 

“We were able to modify their schedule. Because of the CARES Act and the funding the way that works you send them home with 14 paid days leave. We did that,” Corder said. “We actually went back and looked at that employee’s interactions with the public and also with…employees to see if there was any contact with them and we were able to identify those folks and get them tested as well, so luckily that didn’t turn into an outbreak.”

Corder said city staff is looking at federal guidelines, specifically a 14-day consecutive decline in cases, to determine when to bring more employees back to the office.

“Every employee’s required to wear a mask when they can’t keep six feet of separation,” he said. “We have face masks at every public entrance at city hall, so when members of the public come into city hall, we’re going to encourage heavily the use of face masks.”

Corder said the city identified and prioritized critical infrastructure projects, such as the stormwater project at Caruth Park.

“Some of the other (projects), specifically really in parks, we’ve pushed out a little bit right now. We still need to review that with the capital projects committee, but we’re not bringing forward to you any contracts for any of those capital projects that aren’t deemed essential right now,” he said.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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