Despite Pandemic, Economic Outlook Positive For Rome In 2021
There is no question the COVID-19 Pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, but local municipalities are really feeling the impact of the economic damage done. Rome Mayor Jackie Izzo explains the drastic measures she had to take to soften the blows.
In her budget release she opened by explaining the difficulties of budgeting while facing loses. On March 16th, 2020 Mayor Jackie Izzo declared a State of Emergency and several local businesses were forced to shut down. Izzo mentioned in her budget message, "Two months into the forced economic shutdown, the New York State Association of Counties estimated in May 2020 a full year loss in sales tax revenue for Oneida County of 9.3% in a so called 'Milder Recession' and a 22.4% loss for a 'Severe Recession.'" Rome is definitely feeling the direct impact of those estimated losses.
Izzo's budget message indicated that the first sales tax reportes were alarming as they showed a loss of just under 30%, compared to the numbers from the same time last year. Izzo implemented drastic changes to combat the losses including a hiring freeze, mandated 10% reductions in all departments and laid off all part time and temporary employees.
It took a little more time than usual, but when Izzo decided to release her latest budget it was delayed to allow for review of the latest sales tax revenue report. Where early reports indicated 30% losses, the latest report shows that year over year the numbers are within 1% of one another. The 2021 Budget also relied on what the Governor's decision would be regarding aid to municipalities and if he would have to withhold it.
With the Governor announcing he would wait until after the November election to make the ultimate decision on aid to municipalities, Izzo decided to move forward with a budget that includes the aid. Having said that, Izzo told 'First News with Keeler in the Morning' that there is a Plan B. If it turns out the Governor does decided to withhold 20% of aid to funding a lot of the cuts that had to be made in 2020 will be made again in 2021. What that means is summer programs would be eliminated and further hiring of temporary or part time workers would be suspended.
Izzo expressed optimism about the local economy and its recovery. With the revenues being within 1% of last year Izzo believes early decisions made in 2020 by her administration will allow for a covering of the early losses in sales tax revenue.
Izzo announced that despite all the twists and turns of 2020, the 2021 budget will consist of no property tax increase. Izzo credits that decision as a testament to department heads and employees for their sacrifices. Another positive in the budget is the announcement that water rates will remain the same. Sewer rates will increase by 5.57%, but Izzo says that is due to the mandated improvements to the new ultraviolet light facility. Another increase in cost to residents is the increase in refuse rates. Izzo says, "Refuse rates have not been adjusted in the city since 2007." As a result of the cost of doing business, Izzo says the refuse fee will increase by $50. Izzo says, "Even with the increase, the City of Rome refuse charge still remains lower than any private hauler service, residential."
Despite the economic challenges brought about by the Pandemic, Rome appears to be moving forward and progressing. Izzo says it's a testament to the the city's citizens for keeping the coronavirus rates low in the city and county. Izzo encourages as we're going into the winter months to continue to be vigilant with wearing masks and following social distancing protocols to continue to get a handle on the virus. Izzo concluded her budget message saying, "My wish is for everyone to remain safe and healthy, and God Bless our great City of Rome."