QUINCY — It will be months before officials with the city of Quincy are able to fully calculate what sort of impact the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had on the city's coffers, but early projections are bleak.
Much of the city's operations are funded by locally-imposed sales tax revenues, which are expected to plummet due to the state-ordered closure of nonessential businesses, which includes bars and restaurants. Locally many restaurants are still operating using carry-out and delivery methods of reaching their customers, but city officials say that still won't be enough to prevent yet-to-be-named cuts to the city's budget.
“Each week that goes by and our bars and restaurants are closed, we are losing money from our city budget. Roughly $52,000 is taken out of the city budget every week our city's bars and restaurants are closed,” said Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore, who has, along with the Quincy City Council, delayed the rollout of a 1% food and beverage tax that was to be implemented on May 1.
The food and beverage tax, which was approved by the City Council last year, would have funded a number of economic development incentives aimed at bolstering the tourism industry in Quincy and bringing new retailers to the city. This economic development package, known as the 45x30 Plan, was proposed by Moore in hopes of growing the city's population ahead of the 2030 census.
With the bars and restaurants closed through April 30, that means an estimated $284,000 will be taken out of the city's budget.
Moore said the $284,000 is money that would have been spent on general expenses.
“We've implemented a hiring freeze for nonessential personnel and a new policy that all purchases over $500 need to approved by Director of Administrator Services Jeff Mays,” Moore said. “It is too soon to say exactly how much of a difference those new policies will have, but just to be clear, this is something that we are definitely monitoring as far as what kind of reduction in revenue the city may be facing.”
Moore stressed that while revenues are falling, he and members of the City Council are committed to ensuring that essential city services continue to function.
“There has been no talk, absolutely no talk, of discontinuing those services. We are going to continue to offer the services that people expect from their city, things like clean water, fire and police protection, roads, sewers. We just have to be mindful of how we are going to continue to deliver those services to the public during a time when we have unexpected and unprecedented revenues,” Moore said.
In an Aeronautics Committee meeting last month, Mays said the city is also losing $12,500 in revenue from the closure of video gaming lounges in the city. This closure is particularly painful for the city as video gaming revenue was one of the four revenue streams financing the city's public safety pensions for police and fire fighters.
“Right now, our police and fire pension fund is down a combined $13 million this year; overnight we lost $800,000 in the police fund,” Moore said. Last year, an actuarialist told the city its public safety pensions were about 43% funded leaving about $93.5 million in unfunded pension liabilities. Under state law, the city is required to have its public safety pension programs, funded at 90% by the year 2041.
The other three revenue streams for the public safety pensions are: Green Energy program, personal property replacement tax revenue and the city's property tax levy.
Moore said he was anticipating that the Illinois General Assembly would likely extend the pension funding deadline.
“It is the number one thing the Illinois Municipal League is working on, and it is the number one priority I had when I met with State Rep. Randy Frese,” Moore said. “There will be an absolute financial calamity throughout this state if nothing is changed. When you have reduced revenues and losses of this magnitude, it would be nearly impossible for cities to reach that deadline.”