Anticipating a significant shortfall in sales tax and other revenues due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the City of North Richland Hills is making budget cuts in all operations, including across the board pay cuts for all full-time employees.
“Just like so many families and businesses across the community, we must make difficult decisions and adjust our spending,” said City Manager Mark Hindman. “This is not where any of us expected to be when we developed our 2020 budget plans, but we are facing a challenge unlike any other we have experienced. We must react in a way that continues critical services and does not place additional burden on the taxpayers.”
The City is estimating a revenue shortfall this fiscal year mostly from lower sales tax collections, which account for more than 20% of the city’s annual funding. Revenues from permits, fees and other charges for service are already much less than anticipated for the months of March and April.
To cut expenditures, the City Manager is closing non-emergency city operations for 3 days in May (May 1, May 8 and May 15) with employees losing those days of pay. The lost pay will be spread out through the end of the fiscal year. While public safety operations will not close, public safety employees will also be scheduled time off in accordance with the pay reduction.
The City Manager immediately halted training and travel expenditures and implemented a hiring freeze when City facilities closed to the public on March 13, and part-time employee hours were either eliminated or significantly reduced. Savings are also being realized from the suspension of library and recreation programs, as well as the cancellation of all special events during the pandemic. City departments are cutting operating budgets to offset revenue reductions.
“While we are still analyzing the economic impacts and making projections for the remainder of this year and next, we feel that these actions are necessary now to avoid other more drastic measures, such as reduction or elimination of services, down the road,” Mr. Hindman said. “Combined, these actions will lessen the financial impact to the greatest extent possible and allow us to continue serving our residents.”
The City is working with State and County leaders on a plan to begin to re-open businesses in stages in the coming weeks. Mayor Oscar Trevino said about the plans, “Our joint efforts to flatten the curve of this pandemic appear to be working. We are not out of the woods yet, but at the same time, it is important that we strategically start planning to get our residents and business owners back to work. We must do this safely to not ruin the gains achieved through the sacrifices you have made. For your part, please continue to limit unnecessary trips, wear a face covering at essential businesses and keep practicing physical distancing measures.”
As part of the Governor’s plan to reopen Texas, restrictions on certain elective medical procedures were loosened effective Wednesday, April 22. Retail outlets will be allowed to reopen on Friday, April 24 under a temporary “Retail-To-Go” model. Under this model, reopened establishments are required to deliver items to customer’s cars, homes, or other locations to minimize contact. Governor Abbott plans to announce additional openings on April 27.