City leaders in Fort Worth say they expect a 30% drop in sales tax revenue for the rest of the current fiscal year due to the impact of coronavirus.
“On the financial side, I’m going to tell you right now – it’s going to hurt,” Fort Worth city manager David Cooke told city council members at a meeting Tuesday.
Cooke said at this point, it was difficult to know what the long term impacts of COVID-19 will be on businesses. Some will be impacted more than others, he said.
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A 30% dip in sales tax revenue equates to roughly $26 million, according to Cooke.
“Public events, I’ve mentioned, is probably taking the greatest hit we expect. Essentially – a $25 million deficit on the revenue side,” he said, adding that's about 40% of the city's annual budget.
The city entered the pandemic on a "strong" note, Cooke said. Some strategies currently in place include a hiring freeze, excluding civil service and a discretionary spending freeze. The idea, he said, was to limit spending for the rest of the year with revenue projections on the decline.
The figures discussed Tuesday came as city council members voted to extend the “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders through April to be consistent with county and state orders.
"I know the hardest part is not behind us yet. It’s still to come, but I hope it’s not as bad as we think it might seem," Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said during her opening remarks. "I’m confident that we have the right people at the table to make the decisions."
Hours beforehand, Tarrant County Public Health officials confirmed five additional patients died from COVID-19, ranging between the ages of 47 to 88.
Two of the patients had underlying health conditions, according to TCPH Director Vinny Taneja.
“We’re starting to see this everyday – two deaths, two deaths, now five deaths,” Taneja said. “To me, that’s one too many.”
Taneja, who briefed the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court on Tuesday, said the global situation surrounding COVID-19 had “drastically changed” in two weeks alluding to the 1.4 million cases confirmed worldwide.
Taneja said Tarrant County wasn’t seeing “crazy numbers” as of right now, but the daily increases add up. About 45% of the 517 confirmed cases as of this writing were considered community spread with an unknown source.
Part of his briefing included the state of hospital bed capacity in the event of a possible surge in cases.
“I believe the ballpark number for all beds available in Tarrant County is about 4,500. We’ve seen about 2,100 or so are available – currently empty,” he said. “We’re at about half utilization and this is still early from the executive orders that cancelled elective surgeries and other things. So as more people leave the hospitals, we’re expecting that capacity to also be available.”
While acknowledging the realistic projection of increased confirmed cases, Taneja said the hope, however, was that there will not be a need for more hospital beds.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.