It’s not business as usual. Concerns about COVID-19 are impacting the economy at every level. The long-term consequences were discussed at the March 17 meeting of the Star Valley Town Council.
“Tax revenues are likely to decrease and that will impact council actions in the future,” said Mayor Gary Coon.
Chancy Nutt, finance administrator, gave the council an overview of the town’s perspective on the situation.
She said the state-shared revenue makes up 55% of Star Valley’s general fund. Interest on town CD accounts equals 9% of the general fund.
State-shared revenues include: vehicle license taxes (VLT); fuel taxes; sales taxes; and income taxes. Nutt said it is likely the VLT will decrease as new car sales drop; the fuel tax revenue will drop because of the lower oil prices and the decrease in travel, the tax comes not only from gasoline sales, but also jet fuel purchases.
Sales taxes are expected to decline due to purchasing behaviors and the limited opportunity to shop as more businesses close or limit hours, Nutt said. Those same factors would also impact the amount of income tax the state collects and distributes through the shared revenue program. She explained income tax distributions are on a two-year cycle. Income taxes collected this year won’t be distributed until 2022. It’s called the shadow effect, she said.
That shadow effect could also be reflected in the Community Block Development Grant money the town receives from the federal government. Used for capital projects, such as the ongoing improvements for the water department, the town has received about $140,000 for each year it has been eligible.
Town Manager Tim Grier said the federal government might reshuffle budgets to fund the various stimulus packages planned in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The most recent CDBG project in Star Valley is connecting the PW1 and PW2 wells to the water system. The work is nearly complete, so there should be no problem.
There are a few other capital improvements at varying stages:
• Street lights on S.R. 260; a $70,000 project on which the town has spent $11,360
• Water feature at park; a $30,000 project on which the town has spent $22,000
• Lights for the park’s pickleball court, an $8,654 project on which the town has spent $4,147
• Climbing wall at the park, an expense of $12,890 on which the town has spent nothing
“A lot of towns and cities are in dire straits,” Grier said. “Businesses are closing, meaning no sales tax for towns in the immediate and long term. Star Valley’s conservative spending has given us a significant fund reserve. We can operate for many years with no funds coming in,” he said.
Grier said he thought the town could continue with projects in which it has already invested, but should hold off on moving forward with any others and be very careful when considering future requests for donations.
“We’re a rare breed as far as our fiscal position and where we’re at,” he said.
He added that while the town is facing a unique challenge, it should plan to move forward, but be malleable.
Grier said he believed Star Valley’s solvent fiscal condition would continue because of the actions of this and previous councils.
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