TWENTYNINE PALMS — The local emergency because of the continuing coronavirus crisis will likely continue at least until May. Even after the crisis is over, city officials will have to deal with the economic fallout.
That was the word from City Manager Frank Luckino when council members, observing social distancing, voted 5-0 Tuesday, March 24, to ratify the proclamation.
The proclamation calls on the state of emergency to last until the end of March but gives Luckino the option of renewing it two weeks at a time, in consultation with council members.
“I suspect our local emergency will coincide with the county and state,” Luckino, who noted that those declarations call on states of emergency continuing into early May. “The city is taking this health issue seriously.”
The state of emergency has left city offices, including city hall, closed to the public. Members of the public were barred from attending the council meeting but were invited to view the proceedings live via a link on the city’s website and comment via email.
Park maintenance has continued and city parks have remained accessible, Luckino reported.
After a brief discussion, council members agreed by consensus to keep playground equipment accessible but place warning signs around the apparatus which, Luckino said, is cleaned twice a day.
While assuring council members that the city if financially healthy, with a multi-million dollar reserve, Luckino warned of financial challenges related to the crisis.
“There is going to be a financial challenge,” he said.. “The uncertainty of the economy is in front of us.”
He noted that the emergency has hit the city during what is normally its biggest quarter for collection of Transient Occupancy Taxes, which are tied to stays in local hotel and motel rooms.
“We think we know we are going to take a big hit on that,” he said.
While sa federal bailout is coming, he said, it will likely amount to just $10 billion for cities across the country, compared with an estimated $240 billion in revenues lost by cities because of the crisis.
Twentynine Palms, he said, could be forced to try to make up $927,000 in lost city revenue while also dealing with the crisis’ impact on PERS funding.
“Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” he said of the city’s strategy over the next few months.
City officials, he said, will have to look at three main options; cutting expenses, increasing revenue and spending down the city’s reserves.
“You can only spend your savings for so long,” he said.