At the Royal Palm Beach Village Council meeting on Thursday, May 21, Village Manager Ray Liggins warned of another 18 months to two years of COVID-19-related restrictions on activities, as well as budget shortcomings related to the virus pandemic.
“There has been a lot going on in the last two months and a lot has changed in the last two months, and our life is going to be different for the next 18 months,” Liggins said. “We are in the process now where we have to look at all of the events that we had planned, all the things we have budgeted, and what is different going forward. We are in the process of creating our budget for 2020-21.”
The effect of COVID-19 expenditures and an expected decrease in revenues will affect what the village is able to do next year, he said.
“The experts will tell us that the population is not safe from the coronavirus until there is a vaccine, or the majority of the population has been affected,” he said. “Until then, openings and restarts of activities will be based on that activity’s ability to follow CDC guidelines and the rate of the community’s new infections.”
At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the village stopped all activities and programs in order to protect residents and staff, initiated remote work and put some workers on furlough at reduced pay.
“We installed clear barriers at workstations, we increased cleaning at high-touch areas, and we handed out protection to the employees,” Liggins said. “We created a coronavirus web page with links to useful web sites, local food sources, operational updates and online links to do business with Royal Palm Beach.”
Village parks are open now and village services have continued uninterrupted, he said. Furloughed employees are back at work, but a full re-opening of activities will not be possible for at least through the next school year.
“Practicing social distancing, wearing masks, washing your hands frequently and trying to avoid touching your face will be the norm,” Liggins said.
The village is looking at allowing special event permits at no cost to allow temporary outdoor seating, he said. The village also had plans to re-open public buildings on June 1 with certain exceptions, such as the post office at Village Hall. Restrictions following CDC guidelines will apply.
COVID-19 is expected to have a profound impact on the village budget, with decreased revenues and increased expenses.
“Clearly, there’s been a financial impact on businesses out there; 33 million people have applied for unemployment,” Liggins said. “Sixty percent of our revenue is based on consumption, and that is down. Our revenue collections this year are off by a couple of million dollars. The good news is our revenue expenditures are off by a million and a half.”
Although both revenues and expenditures are down, in the long run, it will mean dipping into the village’s reserves to make up the difference, he said.
“The good news is that we have reserves, and I think that reserves are for emergencies like this,” he said. “But the difference between this impact versus the impact that we had [between 2008 and 2011] was demand for services [between 2008 and 2011] did not change. It actually went up because of the recession, and people were looking for services. This time, services are reduced because of CDC guidelines for activities.”