Atlanta mayor projects $35 to $40 million revenue loss due to virus

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms painted a grim picture to the City Council on Tuesday on how the virus might impact city’s finances
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms painted a grim picture to the City Council on Tuesday on how the virus might impact city’s finances

The coronavirus pandemic is going to cost the city of Atlanta up to $40 million in lost revenue through the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

That is the prediction Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms shared with the Atlanta City Council Tuesday during her weekly coronavirus update, during which she said the city’s hotel-motel tax collections have dropped by a staggering 80 percent.

“As you all are well aware fewer people are traveling,” Bottoms said.

And the coronavirus tab will go even higher, because it has cost the city in other ways.

Bottoms in March transferred $7 million from the city’s general reserve fund to help small businesses, provide senior citizen food programs and allow the city to purchase equipment so employees can work from home.

The mayor has also ordered about $10 million appropriated so that 5,400 employees who can't work from home receive an extra $500 in hazard pay from March through June.

Councilman Howard Shook, former chair of the council’s Finance Executive Committee, said that the figures the mayor provided also present a harrowing glimpse into how the virus could impact the city’s 2021 fiscal budget beginning July 1.

“What steps have been taken in terms of hiring and non-essential spending to cushion us from the body blow we are clearly going to receive?” Shook asked.

Bottoms said that the city’s top officials were exploring cost-cutting measures, but had no immediate plans to layoff workers.

“We are trying to hold on to every dime we have right now,” Bottoms said.

Chief Financial Officer Roosevelt Council Jr. said that the city would attempt to tap into federal stimulus funds and FEMA reimbursements to offset the financial impact of the virus.

"This pandemic has prompted us to review every aspect of our budget," Council said.

Bottoms said the city hadn’t put a hiring freeze in place because it may need additional public safety employees to respond to the virus.

The city has a general fund reserve — essentially a savings account for emergencies and capital projects — of around $160 million. Maintaining a large reserve helps the city’s credit rating, which lowers the amount of interest paid on debt.

The general fund pays for most basic city services, from patching potholes and building parks to running community centers and paying police officers.

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