Frederick’s fiscal 2021 budget will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the country, although the virus’ toll remains to be seen.

City staff will likely present a budget amendment to the mayor and aldermen that lowers projected revenues during the budget process in April and May, but they don’t know by how much, Frederick Director of Budget and Purchasing Katie Barkdoll said.

How much revenue is lost depends on how long the pandemic lasts and when things start to return to normal, she said.

For instance, the city’s Clustered Spires golf course is closed because of the virus during what would be the beginning of golf season, Barkdoll said.

The course was projected to create about $1.4 million in revenues in fiscal 2021, which would break even with projected costs, according to a summary of the proposed budget.

Meanwhile, the city’s projections for parking revenues will depend on when more people come downtown after stores, bars and restaurants reopen for shopping and dine-in service.

The city’s fiscal 2020 adopted budget included more than $3.8 million in revenues from the city’s parking decks, and $913,572 collected from parking meters. The proposed fiscal 2021 budget currently includes slightly lower, but similar projections.

The city’s revenues will also take a hit in areas such as highway user revenue, which comes from the state based on gasoline sales, which are down with fewer drivers on the roads.

And the city’s main source of its admissions and amusement tax, the Frederick Keys, currently have their season on hold because of the virus.

Mayor Michael O’Connor and the city’s aldermen will meet virtually at 7 p.m. Tuesday for the first of four public meetings on the proposed budget. The proposed operating budget is about $105 million.

The budget will have to be amended to reflect the new realities, O’Connor told the aldermen at a special meeting last week to approve the new schedule of budget hearings.

But they won’t be able to guess how any additional spread of the virus could affect the budget’s development.

“It’s just going to be a budget process unlike anything I’ve participated in,” O’Connor said.

Alderman Roger Wilson thanked O’Connor and the city’s staff in a statement for their work in putting the budget together.

But the proposed budget doesn’t reflect the “economic turmoil the pandemic has caused — and will continue to cause — across the state of Maryland,” Wilson said.

Wilson supports including a contingency fund in the budget to buy a reserve of personal protective equipment for first responders and others on the front lines when battling a pandemic.

The city’s responsibility is to continue to provide services to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents, Alderwoman Kelly Russell said in an email.

O’Connor’s proposed budget seems to do that and more, but they’ll still have to address the volatile financial situation created by the coronavirus, she said.

“It remains to be seen if we will need to make substantial adjustments based on reduced revenues and elevated health and safety needs,” Russell said. “We will have to be nimble and creative in order to respond to the changing landscape.”

The virus has already shortened the timeframe that the mayor and aldermen have to discuss the budget, which was introduced about two weeks later than normal this year.

Alderman Ben MacShane said he thinks O’Connor’s draft budget contains some great steps toward providing for city residents.

But there’s no doubt they’ll need to make some changes in light of the new realities they face, he said.

MacShane said the city needs to be cautious with its spending, without hurting essential programs.

“We need to defer things that we can defer without major impacts,” he said.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak said that could create a more difficult process.

“Time is always an issue,” she said in an email. “I think the more difficult issue is being able to talk with staff and throw ideas back and forth with staff and other elected officials.”

The process may result in a budget that’s not as well thought out and discussed as previous ones have been, Kuzemchak said, “but we are doing the best we can in unprecedented circumstances.”

The unpredictability that the pandemic creates has impacted the entire process of analyzing the budget, Barkdoll said.

The city’s staff has talked with the Maryland Municipal League and other groups, but everyone’s view is clouded by the same uncertainty.

“They don’t have answers either,” Barkdoll said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(13) comments

Lev928

While this is certainly news, it doesn't affect Frederick City nor the County as much as it does most other places across the United States. Of course there are financial losses across the board ... so deal with it. We've done it before.

Russian

Republicans are killing America it’s going to take a democrat to repair the carnage

rbtdt5

I'd rather have Randy or Jenny right now

elymus43

Stop annexing more land into the city, and building more homes.

Kville

Start off by reducing 20% across the board. That's the target realistically to match revenues. Tweak departments as needed, but keep the same bottom line. Later in the year, if the economy is better, spending can be increased. use an ax, not a scalpel.

Russian

Pay freeze 5 years.

steelersfan2005

with things closed, surely you can re-budget areas, for instance, when will Lord Freddie pay back the $45K for the sign fiasco?

niceund

It really scares me that this administration has to deal with this issue. Get ready for major fee (tax) increases. The explanation will be "where else are we supposed to get the money but from the residents"? Well, we don't have it either. Especially this year.

User1

You mean like they tried to do when we had the last “drop” in the economy? They put so much of the county pension fund money in volatile stocks and lost around 30% and tried to raise everyone’s taxes to make up for the lose. Cut out all the “diversity” funding garbage.

Dwasserba

? This is the city.

KMRD1

Have Lord Frederick repay the $45k for logogate.

KMRD1

So don’t spend $265K to repair a fountain in Baker Park which would have only been a bath tub for the homeless

Jaco

As I recall, the News-Post ran an article 2-3 weeks ago that O’Connor was proposing an additional $4,000,000 (maybe more) in expenditures for the next fiscal year. Why would anyone, even incompetent elected officials propose increased spending at this time?

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