As Killeen city officials are taking steps to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to city employees and the public, they are taking action on the city’s finances — both present and future.
As of Saturday, Killeen had nine confirmed cases: five women and four men. The women’s ages covered five decades: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s. Of the men, two were in their 40s and one each was in his 30s and 60s.
In Bell County, there are a total of 28 confirmed cases and one person had died. On March 18, Bell County Judge David Blackburn issued a disaster declaration. Two hours later, Mayor Jose Segarra issued the same order citywide. City Attorney Traci Briggs said the reason behind the city issuing a separate declaration is to receive federal funding on a municipal level should a disaster arise.
Both Blackburn and Segarra have since issued three directives under the declarations including a shelter-at-home order. Updates to the directives Friday put the shelter-at-home order through April 6.
On Tuesday, the Killeen City Council received an update from City Manager Kent Cagle. Cagle broke down on what is next to come for the city.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, city staff was working internally on the FY21 budget with a plan to go public by July.
“We are still in budget development and remain on schedule for budget adoption in September,” Cagle told the Herald via email on March 25. “The current financial position of the city is strong.”
He also said his budget concerns before the pandemic were “addressing compensation and maintain infrastructure and assets with limited resources.”
For FY20, $86.6 million was dedicated to the general operating fund. Of the operating budget, 68% goes to salaries and 8% goes to debt.
The estimated numbers for FY21 were not available as of Wednesday, said Communications Director Hilary Shine.
Cagle said he expects the hotel/motel and airport revenues “to drop drastically, hopefully (only) for a short period of time.”
The hotel occupancy tax revenue goes into its own enterprise fund that funds the civic and conference center and the city's convention and visitor's bureau. Airport revenues fund the city’s airport enterprise fund.
In FY19, the city estimated actual revenue was $2.6 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue, and it budgeted about the same for FY2020
In FY19, the city received $3 million in airport revenue and estimated $3.6 million would be received in FY2020.
“Our sales tax, one of our major revenues, probably will decline as well but not so severely,” Cagle said on Tuesday. “We really won’t know the results for a couple of months because there is a two-month lag in reporting sales tax.”
In FY19, the city had $25.7 million in sales tax revenue, and it budgeted $25.7 million for FY2020.
The city is responding financially to the pandemic by freezing its hiring except public safety positions and either “canceling or postponing discretionary contracts or travel.”
“We do not plan to spend more than is budgeted, but there will likely be a shift in account spending to support necessary operations,” Cagle said in his email.
Shine said that might be for overtime expenses for emergency operations.
Currently, there are three full-time open positions and nine seasonal positions, according to the city’s website. The Killeen Police Department has 27 vacancies.
Jonathan Locke, Killeen’s executive director of finance, provided information on the city’s operating budget reserve, or savings, account.
“The General Fund finished FY 2019 with an unassigned fund balance of $19.9 million, which is 23% of the General Fund’s fiscal year 2020 adopted expenditure budget. If the adopted expenditure budget were annualized, operating reserves would cover 2.75 months of budgeted expenditures. This assumes there is no other revenue source and no measures were taken to reduce expenditures.”
Cagle told the Herald that city operations will continue and “have limited public access to most facilities.”
“The real impacts will be determined by how long the shutdown lasts. Short-term declines may be managed, but long-term declines will create significant difficulties,” he said.
Under the latest directive, day-to-day city operations fall under the essential government functions guidelines which state they can “be performed in compliance with social distancing requirements of 6 feet.”
The council voted to have meetings every two weeks for the month of April — the 14th and 28th. Segarra said it would be a combined “workshop and meeting.”
There is also no interruption in water and sewer services along with curbside trash pickup. For those who are delinquent, Cagle said the utility department will work on an “individual basis.”
The following city services’ status as of Wednesday:
Killeen Animal Shelter is closed to the public, and adoption services have been suspended. Animal control issues can be reported to 254-526-4455.
Killeen Main Library and Copper Mountain Branch are closed and curbside pickup discontinued. Online resources are available at killeentexas.gov/libraries.
Public safety will still respond to 9-1-1 calls.
Tickets will still be issued for municipal court violations by mail, phone or online. Court cases scheduled March 16 through May 1 are canceled and will be rescheduled.
Both Skylark and Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport are still open, however, passengers should consult airlines for flight information.
The city also has a COVID-19 hotline available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday — 254-616-3209. Library staff is manning the hotline, Cagle said.
There is also a frequently-asked questions page on the city’s website to clarify what the shelter-at-home order means for Killeen residents.
“Clearly, city staff is concerned about their own well-being and that of their families, but they understand there is a job to do,” Cagle said in his email. “We provide essential services, and that hasn’t change. What has changed is a shift toward conducting business remotely.”
Segarra said residents have been responding to the new measures positively.
“The constituents have been very supportive and understanding because of the situation. Most of the people have questions about city services, business openings and other questions related to the situation. Our goal is to be responsive to them as quickly as possible.”