The Terrell City Council moved the May 2 municipal election to Nov. 3, and City Manager Mike Sims touched on the budget implications of the COVID-19 pandemic during a meeting Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases confirmed in Kaufman County grew to nine as of Friday morning. New cases were confirmed this week in the Crandall, Terrell, Forney, Scurry and Wills Point areas, according to the office of County Judge Hal Richards.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this week ordered a cessation of all business and activities in Texas not deemed as “essential.” Kaufman County and others in the Metroplex had put a similar policy into effect a week earlier.
In addition, applications for unemployment benefits soared in Texas. Last week, 275,597 Texans applied — a 1,604% increase over the 16,176 Texans who filed in the week ending March 14. Those numbers are expected to climb.
Terrell Mayor Rick Carmona continued to urge citizens to maintain social distancing and follow all CDC recommendations. “In additional to that – for all of our citizens – if you’re ill, and if you have a temperature, if you’re showing signs of any of those COVID-19 symptoms, please quarantine yourself. Do not go in and about the public. If you need resources, reach out to the city and we will get you in touch with whoever we need to so we can keep our community safe moving forward.”
In a unanimous vote, the council moved the May 2 election to Nov. 3. District 3 incumbent Mayrani Velazquez faces challenges from Jonathan Preston and Thomas Brown. District 5 incumbent Tim Royse will face a write-in challenge from former Councilwoman Sandra Wilson.
Sims told the council that Kaufman County, which contracts with the city to conduct its elections, had stated that it will not conduct any elections prior to Nov. 3.
Along with concerns about human health and safety, city leaders also will wrestle with the financial fallout from the coronavirus. Municipalities will see sharp plunges in sales tax revenue. Sales tax is Terrell’s largest funding source, comprising 46 percent of its general fund revenue.
“When you look at your May financial report, it’s going to be the first one that shows the impact of the loss of sales from all of the Covid-19 decisions,” said Sims.
Even before Carmona’s March 18 emergency health declaration, “We had national retailers in town deciding to shut down early,” noted Sims.
The business lost at restaurants and retail stores will be profound.
One thing benefiting Terrell is that Sims has preached a pay-as-you-go approach to capital spending. “The advantage of having a budget that includes a lot of pay-as-you-go capital spending is if your revenues don’t come in the way you hope … you can have delays on capital projects and still survive.”
Reacting to the budgetary pressures of COVIS-19 is no different for a city than for a household, Sims said. “You’ve got to change from things you want and need to things you mostly just need. That won’t be a fun budget process, but it will be a realistic budget process.”
Said Carmona: “All the expectations that we once had for 2020 – we must realize that most of those will not be met. Not because of lack of effort from the city or staff … but because of this COVID-19 and how it’s affecting our city business. As we move forward, we’re looking at two things: What do we want and what do we need.”
In another piece of business Tuesday, the council reappointed Rosi Juarez to a second term on the Planning and Zoning Commission.