The mayors of Louisville and Greenville used a Thursday afternoon press call to urge Congress to pass financial support for city governments struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Greenville Mayor Janice Yonts told reporters if cities don’t receive federal support, city workers will lose jobs and essential services will have to be reduced, causing additional damage.
Fischer said Louisville has gone from having a $19 million budget surplus to a $27 million deficit over the past three months due to the pandemic. Tourism has also declined.
Between lost revenue from declining payroll taxes and funds the city has spent and will spend on coronavirus testing and contact tracing, it will face a $250 million economic impact by the end of fiscal year 2022, Fischer said.
“In Louisville, 47% of our budget comes from payroll taxes,” Fischer said. “... Without additional revenue, we’ll have to cut (city) departments, including public safety.
“We are looking at potentially laying off 600 metro employees,” which would be the equivalent of losing 24,000 hours of city services a week, Fischer said.
Yonts said Muhlenberg County as a whole is in financial crisis, with the county facing a $2.3 million budget shortfall. The county’s payment in lieu of taxes from Tennessee Valley Authority declined by $2.3 million for the coming fiscal year, which starts in July.
In Greenville, “this definitely is going to impact us for quite some time,” Yonts said.
Small cities like Greenville were not included in previous federal stimulus packages, she said.
City first responders have recently dealt with two fatal fires, a string of burglaries and a number of drug overdoses. “Yet, because of the budget shortfalls, we are making difficult decisions on which services to cut,” Yonts said.
“I’m worried about the prolonged economic fallout if we have to cut services,” she said. “How can we reopen if we have to cut trash collection or clean water?”
David Shockley, who works for the Paducah Parks and Recreation Department, said “important city services are being cut to keep (other services) like trash pickup running.”
“All city projects have also been stalled or postponed,” Shockley said.
“We know Paducah citizens rely on these services … and we know we can’t recover from the pandemic or reopen the economy without these services in place,” Shockley said. “If the economy continues down the path due to the shutdown, layoffs might not be far off.”
Yonts said Greenville’s city pool won’t open this summer, which means some lost jobs. The city police department often backs up the Muhlenberg County Sheriff’s Department and the Kentucky State Police, and overtime funds for law enforcement might have to be cut, she said.
“Our police force is small, so we have to keep everyone employed there,” Yonts said. If law enforcement overtime is cut, “we won’t be readily available for the county and the state.”
Fischer urged the Senate to pass a bill to assist cities. The House of Representatives previously passed the HEROES Act, which contained relief funds for city and state governments, but the Senate has not taken action on the bill or sponsored a bill of its own.
Fischer said he has spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and was told that Congress will “probably” need to pass more pandemic assistance.
Fischer said officials on the call are urging the Senate “to come up with their own package” and negotiate on a bill with the House.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse