The City of Sturgeon Bay is evaluating the fiscal impact of COVID-19, and City Administrator Josh VanLieshout said a large factor will be decreased sales-tax revenue apportioned to taxpayers.
“City residents receive a benefit from the county sales tax in the form of a property-tax credit,” VanLieshout said. “The estimated loss for the year to the city is about $43,000 dollars.”
City Finance Manager Val Clarizio said that could increase if people are squeamish about traveling or making larger purchases.
The city is anticipating revenue shortfalls in fees as well, including park and shelter rentals, farm markets, boat launches and marina facilities.
Mayor David Ward and Common Council President Dan Williams asked staff to keep a running cost of COVID-related expenses and identify expenses that could be curtailed or cut.
“Our objective is to continue to provide a full complement of services and keep our budget as intact as possible without cutting into the city’s fund balance,” Ward said.
Department heads identified a potential $122,000 in savings through hiring freezes on budgeted positions, reduction in labor for fire inspections and deferred debt service payments by delaying certain capital expenses.
Williams said the extra expenses incurred to conduct the April 7 election total $22,650. Those expenses may be incurred again for future elections.
“We are not only looking at this fiscal year, but [we] will be looking into 2021 as well,” Ward said. “We want to be sensitive and thoughtful as our residents, property owners and small businesses may feel the ripples of this health crisis into 2021 or beyond.”
West Waterfront Promenade in next phase of planning
Work on Sturgeon Bay’s West Waterfront Promenade is moving forward. Cedar Corporation shared updated plans with the council in April and is moving forward with the next phase of planning. The planners will return to the council for an update when plans are close to 80 percent complete. Then the project will move to the bidding phase.
Though municipal budgets face an uncertain future because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city had previously secured almost $500,000 in stewardship-fund grants from the state to complete the promenade.
“We don’t want to lose that,” VanLieshout said.
West-side school loses out on tax credits
News on another city project is not so positive. Developers who had hoped to rehabilitate the old west-side school into affordable housing lost out on the first round of tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). The credits are a crucial part of the plan to develop 40 apartments at the long-empty school site.
VanLieshout said the city and developers are hopeful the project will be awarded the credits during a future cycle.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say we were really disappointed,” VanLieshout said. “It’s a good project and a demonstrated need in the community. The project scored sufficiently well for funding, but they weren’t included in this round. There are more credits to be issued, however, and we’re hoping to hear from the developers that WHEDA will find a way to include the west-side school in their project list for 2020.”