Although it's been only about eight weeks since the COVID-19 coronavirus first started impacting every facet of our lives, it's safe to say the ripple effect of the pandemic will be felt for years to come.
Never in our lives have we seen everything we know so drastically changed, so quickly. What's even more mind-boggling is that each sector of our economy is being impacted in different but equally challenging ways.
As Whitehall's mayor, I've had countless conversations with other local government leaders in which we've shared our experiences in an attempt to identify how to overcome COVID-19's impact on municipal services. But each local government is facing its own unique set of challenges, and the city of Whitehall is no exception.
Immediately following the issuance of the statewide stay-at-home order in March, which closed nonessential businesses, I joined other city officials in setting to work to calculate new revenue projections for the city.
As you may know, cities in Ohio rely heavily on corporate and individual income taxes to support local services. So when businesses began closing their doors or otherwise reducing payroll, the impact on city revenues were practically immediate.
Early calculations revealed a $900,000 reduction in revenue for the city in April 2020, as compared to April 2019. For an organization that operates on a general-fund budget of around $30 million, that type of loss in one month's time, coupled with the revenue loss projected for the remainder of the year, is simply unsustainable.
Based on this impact on revenues, the city has made some tough decisions in the past few weeks.
For the foreseeable future, the city's finite resources will be dedicated first to maintaining our core life, health and safety services.
This means police, fire and emergency-medical services will continue operations as usual, aside from new safety practices.
However, ancillary services, such as parks, recreation, special events, cultural arts and home-improvement grant programs, have been removed from the budget for the remainder of the year.
Similarly, multiple street-improvement projects are being deferred to future years where possible. In addition, we have begun to reduce staffing levels through attrition, layoffs, reductions in hours and hiring freezes for seasonal employees.
As someone who has taken great pride in the progress Whitehall has seen in the past decade, I can tell you it truly pains me to say goodbye to these employees and to see these programs and services come to a halt for the foreseeable future. I also cannot stress enough how grateful I am to our remaining staff members who are diligently working through new workloads and adopting new safety protocols.
But in the darkness, there is always light. Amid all this uncertainty and change, Whitehall residents have come together as a community to help each other pull through this pandemic.
My gratitude is with the many community organizations that have swiftly acted to help those in need.
As a resident, if your own situation changes and you find yourself in need of assistance, continue to look to the city for referral resources.
Requests can be made at whitehall-oh.us.
Stay engaged with us in the coming weeks and months as we continue to communicate changes to programs and services. The city and I are committed to serving you to the best of our ability always, but especially during these challenging times.
Kim Maggard is mayor of Whitehall.