By Dave Russell, The Sylva Herald

Sylva’s budget is not immune to the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the world. The resulting closure of all but essential businesses is putting a deep dent in the town’s financial future.

“It’s going to reduce sales tax, it’s going to reduce vehicle tax and occupancy taxes,” Sylva town Manager Paige Dowling said. “The revenue that comes in between early March and June is going to be significantly impacted. Looking at the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, we are estimating a decrease of about 20 percent in sales tax.”

The town is looking at appropriating about $190,000 from its fund balance, or rainy day fund, she said. 

The town’s fund balance right now is 80.86 percent of total budget.

“The state’s goal for towns our size is 81 percent,” Dowling said. “If we adopt this balanced budget and with that appropriation of $190,000, the estimated fund balance will be 74.21 percent.”

The 2019-20 budget appropriated $50,000 from the fund balance.

“We’ll also take $91,500 from capital reserves,” she said. “That is the fund set aside for capital purchases, such as equipment. We’re still planning on purchasing two police cars. That’s to keep up with our vehicle replacement schedule, because when we push it out, the years that we have to replace three cars instead of one or two, it’s so difficult on our budget.”

The town board received the balanced draft budget Tuesday evening, with an April 30 budget work session (online via Zoom) slated to review it. Another budget work session is scheduled for May 14.

At a Jan. 23 budget session, town leaders listened to department heads’ pitches and justifications for their requests, and board members threw their own wish lists out for consideration.

“Nothing is definite yet,” Dowling said. “Almost all the wants and needs are not going to be funded, just because this is such an uncertain budget and we do not have the revenue to fund the requests.”

Some items that town leaders talked about that might not see funding include: 

• one or two more police officers.

• additional funding for the Blackrock Creek tract.

• an all-terrain vehicle.

Items still in the draft budget include:

• two police patrol vehicles.

• video surveillance cameras for the Department of Public Works parking area.

• a part-time Main Street manager, though that job is now a contract position instead of a part-time employee.

• a Bridge Park improvement plan, with money coming from the town’s Fisher Creek fund.

• a comprehensive land use plan and zoning ordinance update, required by the state.

“The things that remain in the budget are mainly things that we can pay from other sources, like Fisher Creek or capital reserves,” Dowling said. “Our expenditures have not had an increase, just that we’re projecting a significant revenue loss.”