City’s general fund reflects impact of COVID-19

There’s little left that COVID-19 hasn’t impacted, and the city of Susanville’s general fund is no exception.

With months of some businesses being shutdown, the lack of foot traffic from high school students and the decrease in travelers, the city’s general fund at the end of the 2019/ 2020 fiscal year has seen better days.

“It’s still troubling that we have to really watch what’s going to be happening this year. COVID is still going to impact us,” said city Finance Manager Deborah Savage during the Wednesday, Oct. 21 City Council meeting. “We’re hoping things will pick up but there is still not a lot of traveling.”

During the meeting, Savage shared numbers from the general fund for the last fiscal year, noting the general fund operating budget ended 2019/2020 with a $490,057 deficit when comparing revenues over expenses. The deficit reflects the operations side of the general fund, not including the pool, Memorial Park and grants.

Revenues were $435,455 less than budgeted with the biggest revenue shortfall being reflected in sales and use tax, $325,681, transient occupant tax, $66,924, business license, $33,950, read the staff report.

However, property tax revenue was 9 percent, or about $81,310, more than budgeted, and the property tax in lieu of VLF was $77,327 or 5 percent more than budgeted.

General fund operating expenses were $110,305 less than budgeted with most of this departmental savings coming from vacant positions, including building official, city administrator, planner, project manager.

The public safety/ police budget finished the fiscal year with a $148,914 actual deficit as compared to the $395,321 budgeted deficit, the staff report read. This was attributed to salary savings from an unfilled sergeant position and an operational budgetary savings of $158,308.

Additionally, the public safety/fire budget finished the fiscal year with a $147,529 actual deficit as compared to the $118,811 budgeted deficit. Operationally, the fire department had a savings of $46,156; however, salaries and benefits were $58,527 more than budgeted due to promotions for two employees that were not calculated for.

However, there are also difficulties regarding the city’s cash.

General fund operations fund had a cash balance of $764,034 as of June 30. Public safety/police had a cash balance deficit of $88,801 and public safety/fire a cash balance deficit of $124,546. By combining these balances, the general fund had a total cash balance at June 30 of $550,687 as compared to June 30, 2019 when the general fund had a cash balance of $1,526,220, according to the numbers provided to the city council.

That is a decrease in cash of $975,533 from 2019 to 2020. These figures do not include the general fund reserve fund.

Savage did add that the airport has a positive cash amount.

However, because much is still unknown about how COVID-19 will continue to impact the budget, Savage said the city has to remain aware.

“We have to be very, very conscious to finish up this year, of what’s coming and what could affect us. And, until they completely lift the restrictions throughout the state, it could affect all of us,” Savage said.

The agenda item was information only. The council did not take any action.