AUSTIN, Texas - Just a couple of months ago, Austin was a bustling tech and music Mecca. When COVID-19 came along, that changed quickly.
“Our budget staff has said that the impact to sales tax collections was in the $40 million to $50 million range, and that is this fiscal year,” said Jimmy Flannigan, Austin City Council District 6.
Flannigan said city budgets across the state are uniquely impacted, mainly because of tax revenue ceasing.
“Obviously hotel taxes are dramatically impacted. That has a negative impact to the convention center and possibly to our cultural arts and music industries which rely on those dollars," Flannigan said. "We are trying to figure out how to expedite dollars from the federal government to close some of those gaps."
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“Up until March we were expecting this budget season would be like any other, and then the virus hit,” said Leslie Pool, District 7.
Could this lead to city staff layoffs?
“We don't expect to have any layoffs, we've explored furloughs as an option. Really when you start digging into all staff supported by city government almost all of it is essential,” said Flannigan.
He said government funding is helping. He has an item, that will be voted on tomorrow that will allocate where CARES Act money will go. “The CARES Act money received by the city is over $170 million and we are taking an initial $18 million of it to develop these programs as a pilot, a rapid prototype to get the money quickly out into the community but also teach us through the data what those needs actually are,” said Flannigan.
Losing sales and hotel tax revenue is a big blow to the economy, and not to mention the thousands laid off, but Flannigan is optimistic. “Austin as a city is best positioned nationally I would argue to rebound once we get through the crisis,” said Flannigan.
“None of us are enjoying this situation. We are all eager to get back to work and to regain some of the normality and daily routines we had in the past,” said Pool.
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