Layoffs, plunging sales tax revenues, home sales shake towns

Cheektowaga faces a $5 million to $7.5 million loss in anticipated sales tax revenue because of the shutdown of the Walden Galleria.

The Town of Tonawanda projected a $5 million budget deficit – while Clarence looks at a $2 million budget shortfall, or 10% of the town’s total spending planned for 2020.

The fiscal burden on towns statewide due to the pandemic-related shutdown is also expected to bring an $8.2 billion cut in state funding.

It has spurred towns to issue a mutual call for federal assistance in the form of a stimulus package.

A series of virtual news conferences organized by Amherst Supervisor Brian Kulpa to raise awareness about the growing concern continued Thursday, and featured supervisors Diane Benczkowski of Cheektowaga, Patrick Casilio of Clarence and Joseph Emminger of the Town of Tonawanda.

“We were looking at more than $10.2 million in sales tax revenue,” Benczkowski said. “Stores aren’t open now; people are driving less. We don’t know if shoppers will even return to stores.”

Pandemic-related losses incurred by towns varied, with Cheektowaga expecting a $1 million decrease in mortgage tax revenue because of fewer home sales, Benczkowski said.

The closing of town courts meant $1.1 million in fines was not collected, she said.

Cheektowaga’s road-paving projects were suspended, after a $500,000 loss in state funding.

A drainage project to alleviate flooding issues in the southern part of town will continue, the supervisor said.

All part-time workers were laid off in Cheektowaga, with blue-collar workers split in two shifts to accommodate social-distancing guidelines, Benczkowski said.

Casilio, meanwhile, issued a moratorium on hiring that impacts seasonal and part-time workers in Clarence. But a Veterans Memorial project funded by the Rotary Club will continue.

“Hopefully we can start up programs like construction, which is the quickest way to boost town revenue,” he said.

Tonawanda’s paving work continues from last year because of a $4 million bond, Emminger said.

Water and sewer line projects are progressing, and the Sheridan Park Golf Coursewill open on Friday, the supervisor announced.

Emminger, who recently announced his recovery from Covid-19, said: “We’re not going to get back to any sense of normalcy until we get a vaccine. Until that time local governments will be devastated by the loss of revenue, and there’s really no way of making it up – even by raising taxes.”

Posted by The Buffalo News

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