Rough waters ahead

Opinion: Editorials

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Well, we now have a number: $400,000 a month. That's how much the village of North Riverside stands to lose in revenue due to the state of emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even if the loss turns out to be half that, it's going to have a chilling effect on the operation of village government and important infrastructure projects – especially the water main and sewer project on the west end of town -- that remain in progress.

North Riverside entered a new fiscal year on May 1, and it has done so in its traditional manner – without a budget in place. Under normal circumstances this is not an ideal way to approach financial planning, and in times of crisis it is less so. 

On the other hand, had the village wrapped up its budget prior to end of the fiscal year on April 30, the entire document would have to have been rewritten anyway to account for the pandemic.

Elected officials and village department heads are now expected to craft a budget in June and pass an appropriation ordinance in July prior to end of the first quarter, as required by law.

While the village does have some cash in reserve, it's not a great deal, but we expect some it to be used to soften the blow of what we expect to be soft revenue figures for some months to come.

Reserves are for emergencies, and this would certainly qualify.

But, even if the economy opens up in the next couple of months, we doubt that crowds of people will be flocking back or will even be allowed back in great numbers to brick-and-mortar stores and entertainment venues like Round One and Urban Air.

God forbid a second wave of the disease prompts another stay-at-home order through the holiday season. What then?

While people may be champing at the bit to get life back to normal, doing so too quickly could lead to it being prolonged for months more. In lieu of a proven treatment or vaccine, we all have to do our part to make sure we tamp this thing down and keep ourselves and our neighbors safe.

In the meantime, it's absolutely unclear how this is going to shake out from the standpoint of municipalities continuing to provide the kinds of services resident expect. Many, like North Riverside, improvised and are finding ways to deliver things like drive-thru vehicle sticker renewal and moving more payment options online.

In that respect, local governments are being forced to think a little harder about the most efficient and cost-effective ways to do their jobs. That spirit of ingenuity will survive this pandemic and hopefully improve the way governments interact with residents.

Make no mistake, however. Over the next several months, it's going to be tough. News late last week that J.C. Penney was filing for bankruptcy protection adds another layer of uncertainty.

The key for all of us is to be patient and persevere in our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. The decisions we make now are existential. This is no joke.  

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