How city staff is managing COVID-19 effects
Apr 27, 2020 03:16PM
By Bill Hardesty
Thanks to technology, the South Salt Lake City Council continues to do city business. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)
By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]
COVID-19 continues to make national and state news, but how is it affecting people and businesss on the local level in South Salt Lake? Here’s a rundown:
Current outlook: In a City Council work meeting on April 22, Kyle Kershaw, finance director, said, “We will be in pretty good shape.” He projects that budget will be even or maybe a little in the black. This is due a 10-11% increase in sales tax most of the year and a significant increase in building permits along with actions by the mayor.
Mayor’s statement: Around April 14, Mayor Cherie Wood released the following statement:
“Our City, along with all municipalities, is experiencing unprecedented times with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our finances and local economy are no exception.
As we move into our FY21 Budget discussions, I find it prudent to provide this update to the City Council and the community at-large.
We knew 3 weeks ago we were headed down this path. At that time, I directed departments to:
• Halt all non-critical expenditures
• Cease all Capital Projects not under contract, we are analyzing where they can be delayed and evaluating need
• Pause all non-essential hiring”
Relief money: Kershaw also mentioned the city has applied for a $92,000 Department of Justice grant and is expecting some funds from $1.25 billion given to the state from the federal government; $562,000 is earmarked for local municipalities. In addition to new funds, the city will dip into the fund balance to make up the shortfall. The fund balance is the city’s savings account.
Direct costs: Kershaw estimated the city will spend about $350,000 between now and the end of the year in direct costs related to COVID-19. For example, buying masks and gloves for firefighters and police officers.
FY 2021 Budget: The city is preparing a proposed FY2021 budget that needs to be presented to the City Council, according to state law, at their first meeting in May. Kershaw explained that changing conditions is making it difficult to have firm numbers. He pointed out there is a two-month lag in sales tax revenue so the real effect of the March-April and beyond closures will be seen during budget discussions and further into FY2021. “The budget will be bare born,” Wood said.
Interim program: Promise SSL has adapted their programs to provide an interim program providing a safe place for children. The programs run Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. They are following all guidelines, including taking temperatures each day.
Family engagement: To help their students, Promise SSL staff has invested in distant learning, including creating their own content. They are also reaching out to families via social media and direct phone calls to make sure the families have what they need. Currently, they are only working with families of children involved with Promise SSL before the pandemic.
Staffing: All employees who can work from home are doing so. Those who must come into city hall are staggered so there are not more than 10 employees at a time. Both the fire department and police department are fully staffed and have not reported any COVID-19 cases.
Emergency declaration: The City Council approved on a 7-0 vote to extend the mayor’s emergency declaration. This allows certain actions to move faster.
Civil penalty: The City Council approved an ordinance allowing civil enforcement of orders, directives, rules, or regulations related to the emergency. This means that violators can be cited and pay civil penalties, which are lower than criminal penalties. In also means a violator will not have a criminal record.
Parks: The mayor reminded residents that while pavilions and playgrounds are closed, city parks are still open. She encouraged people to use the walking paths.
Census: In the midst of the pandemic, Census 2020 started. As of this writing, SSL’s response rate is 48.2% compared to the state’s rate of 56% and the nation’s rate of 50.7%. City officials are hoping for at least a 73.8% or better response rate. There is still time to respond because the census runs through mid-July.