Pasco County is estimating a $5.7 million hit to its general fund this fiscal year, due to impacts from the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to County Administrator Dan Biles.
Biles shared that projection during the Pasco County Commission’s virtual board meeting on May 5 .
“We think we have a plan in place to be within that revenue within the next six months, from an expense standpoint,” Biles said.
“We sat down over the last couple of weeks and went through some various options to, I will say, restrict spending in the general fund over the next several months, as we get a better handle on what our revenues will be in the general fund. The specific departments that are being hit outside the general fund, like gas tax, transportation trust fund, tourism — are all working their specific plans to make sure they can manage with the revenue they expect to come in, the reduced revenue.
“From a general fund perspective, we’re putting in place what I will call a ‘soft hiring freeze.’
“If you need a person and you can justify that person up to your assistant county administrator level, then we can still go through the process of hiring that position. It’s not a hard freeze.
“There are some places where it still makes sense to hire that position, depending on what that position is. All fy 20 (fiscal year 2020) business initiatives that have not been implemented have been placed on hold, until we see what our revenue looks like over the next few months.
“Obviously, travel is restricted, so we’ve swept all of those funds out of that department, into a savings account. There’s not a lot of in-person training going on right now, so the costs for those conferences and classes have kind of been swept up. Any training that’s required for certification, we are still allowing that training, but most of that training is virtual today, anyway.
“We are working on carefully watching our large purchases the next few months to make sure, again, if it’s something that has to happen or it is something that we can wait until we see (the revenue,” Biles said.
“The revenue numbers from March didn’t dip as much as we expected. That’s good. They weren’t as high as we had budgeted for that month, either.
“So, there was a small dip.
“As we are working right now, building the fy 21 (fiscal year 2021) budget, I will say that on the general fund and these other funds that will be impacted by this, it will be a very lean budget. As, in, there will not be any business plan initiatives proposed because … we will probably take a pretty significant hit on the sales tax even into (fiscal year) 21, and into (fiscal year) 22, we’ll probably take a hit on the ad valorem side because building will be slowing down over the next several months, which means our new construction number in (fiscal year) 22 will be lower than what we’ve seen in the next few years.
“I will say that building permits were down about 25% from March to April. That’s probably within what we expected the market to do.
“There’s still a lot of building going (on) out there, but that’s still down 25% March to April, and that’s probably going to continue to drop over the next couple of months until people get a feel for what is happening out there in the economy.
“In short, we’ve done our due diligence on our (fiscal year) 20 expenses, we think we’ve got a plan in place that will keep us within the projected revenue in (fiscal year) 20. And, that our (fiscal year) 21 will be very lean, with respect to new business plan initiatives in the general fund — very close to zero right now — unless we see some change in the revenue perspective,” he said.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she’d just read a Wall Street Journal article that said housing prices were up almost 8% in March.
“It looks like the trend is that the demand is still very strong and the supply is not so good.
“I also saw some comments by Taylor Morrison in an article that they are still actively looking for land, that they are kind of focusing on adult retirement, and they still see the demand in Florida as very strong.
“So, hopefully, we’ll bounce very quickly,” Starkey said.
Published May 13, 2020