The coronavirus pandemic has forced county and city government officials to examine ways to deal with revenue losses associated with reductions in tax revenue, even as some balance public health costs associated with keeping people safe.
Bamberg County Controller Gina Smith said the county is closely eyeing the pandemic’s impact on its revenue streams.
“We believe that we will experience some downturns in some revenue sources but are hopeful that due to the reopening of the state, any downturns will be temporary and can be managed with careful spending practices and good planning,” Smith said.
She added, “We believe that any revenue dependent upon the sales tax will be impacted. We anticipate a reduction in the gas tax due to the high unemployment status of the state and travel restrictions in place. We also anticipate a reduction in the accommodations tax and the capital project sales tax.”
While the county does not have firm estimates of its projected losses, a tracking system has been created to study its revenue streams.
“As far as adjusting the budget, we are simply analyzing any major purchase and delaying, as much as possible, any expenditure that is not mission critical. We are not at the point where we are looking at making cuts per say,” Smith said.
The county is putting together its 2021 fiscal year revenue estimates.
“Once we have those nailed down, we will be able to determine if there are any shortfalls that would precipitate budget cuts,” the controller said.
The county is also eyeing possible assistance from the state and its share of CARES Act funding.
“We are watching closely the state’s sharing of their $1.9 billion in funding from the CARES Act. We understand that counties will receive some of these funds, but we do not know how much that will be, or if that amount will offset any anticipated shortfalls in the normal revenue streams,” Smith said.
"Logic says that any sales tax-related revenue will be lower during the pandemic. The local property tax credit sales tax will likely be lower, but we do not know right now how much that will be. If these collections are lower, then the property tax credit would also be lower for the next fiscal year. So if the credit is less, then the tax would increase, absent any other mitigating offset such as the State sharing their $1.996 billion in CARES Act funding," she said.
Along with potential state help, “I would anticipate funding from FEMA since the pandemic has been declared a national emergency, but we have not been advised any specific amounts or a timing,” she said.
The county is not yet considering reducing funding for outside agencies, but Smith said that will ultimately depend on how much state funding is received.
Also, she said the county will not know what the anticipated shortfall in accommodations tax funding will be until July.
“This is the time to stand firm and understand that this trying time will pass.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD
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