At its first meeting since the onset of mandatory stay-at-home and other strong measures to mitigate the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Falls Church City Council met virtually, online, last night to deliberate on how to exercise its commitment to the safety and wellbeing of the Falls Church public, and how to move forward in this terrible and uncertain time.
Although it is only a very preliminary assessment, the City’s chief financial officer Kiran Bawa presented to the Council two possible scenarios for the fiscal conditions facing the City, moderate and a severe estimates, with one having the City losing $1.3 to $3.9 million in revenues below earlier projections in the last four months of the current fiscal year, and $5.5 to $8.5 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 that begins July 1. But these are only preliminary projections and based on an expected ability of revenues from residential real estate assessments to hold. The Council determined to meet again next Monday to assess further data, including from things like how much the impact of loss of state revenue will have and how much, if any, impact federal economic stimulus funds may have.
There are expected to be new ordinances for consideration to lax some zoning requirements for struggling local businesses as revenues even for restaurants, for example, staying open for take-out business may be losing 90 percent of their normal revenue. One zoning suggestion under consideration would be to close westbound traffic on Broad Street between Applebee’s and Paisano’s Pizza to allow for curbside service from the string of small restaurants there in an effort to boost their bottom lines, as well as allowance for more temporary signage, like the big red “Grab and Go” that Federal Realty provided restaurants in its West End center, and sandwich boards.
When the Council was briefed on some of the 30 day extension of deadlines on some tax payments being instituted in neighboring jurisdictions, Sally Cole, executive director of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, intoned that the cash flow crises facing local businesses will extend far beyond 30 days, at which time things are likely to be even worse. In addition, she said, these businesses don’t need more loans, not wanting to incur even more debt, but need cash.
Councilman Dan Sze said rather than deferrals, the City may have to be looking at forgiveness of payments due.
Bawa noted that the City’s large unassigned fund balance, now at 18 percent of annual expenditures and over 30 percent when other resources are included, could go a long way to mitigating the impact of this sudden steep revenue downturn for the City.