While all of our personal lives have been upended as the state of Illinois and the nation have come to grips with the rapid spread COVID-19 pandemic, municipal services continue to be delivered, albeit under some odd circumstances – like virtual recreation programs, certain police shifts operating out of a Brookfield middle school and almost all village business being handled over the phone or through email.
Village boards continue to meet virtually – Brookfield and North Riverside met again Monday night and Riverside is slated to meet for the first time since last month on Thursday – and get business done.
While the COVID-19 shutdown made almost an immediate impact on personal financial situations, its impact at the municipal level has yet to be felt in any significant way.
But, that’s going to change by the time we hit summer if the stay-at-home order remains in place.
While officials in Riverside and North Riverside did not share any firm financial projections for the summer months with respect to impact on revenues, Brookfield officials have been taking a close look at what any prolonged shutdown might mean, and the picture isn’t pretty.
All three villages are in somewhat different situation with respect to revenue sources, so it’s hard to draw any general conclusion about how each would fare during a prolonged shutdown.
Riverside is the least dependent on things like sales taxes, and more dependent on property tax revenue, which appears to be the most stable revenue source for the time being.
While North Riverside depends heavily on sales taxes and lost a large sales tax producer when the North Riverside Park Mall shut down, other sales tax producers in the village – Costco, Jewel, Aldi, CVS — saw their sales go through the roof in March and early April.
Brookfield’s revenue streams are more diverse. If the shutdown lasts into the summer, Brookfield will lose sales tax revenue from its largest producer, Brookfield Zoo. The village estimates the total sales tax hit monthly would be about $27,000.
If the state of Illinois begins slowing down its monthly installment of income taxes it shares with municipalities, that could amount to another $35,000 per month. All revenue streams combined – from taxes on gasoline to video gambling taxes, the places for eating tax, commuter parking fees, lost recreation program revenue – Brookfield is looking potentially at $110,000 a month in lost revenues.
While officials will try to protect as many municipal jobs as possible, that revenue interruption could result in delayed or canceled capital purchases and projects, like sidewalk replacement, scheduled improvements to municipal buildings and the like.
What we’re saying here is that, while the villages appear to be handling this shutdown so far, it could get dicey once we hit June and beyond.
We don’t know what this is going to look like on the other side of the pandemic. We don’t even know when that will happen – probably not until there’s a vaccine. If we can sustain the spirit of everyone working toward and acting in the interest of public health and the common good, we’ll get through this, despite facing hardships we haven’t even imagined yet.