BEAUFORT — Though town staff said it was too early to know the extent of the financial impact of the novel coronavirus and economic downturn, Beaufort officials are preparing to seek reimbursement from the federal government for expenses related to the pandemic.
Town staff and commissioners discussed updates and budgetary impacts during a virtual work session Monday.
“I don’t have anything specific. It’s still a bit early to give you any kind of estimates on sales tax,” Town Finance Director Christi Wood told the board. She told the board that revenue is going to drop but wasn’t ready to speculate by how much.
As of Tuesday, the town was at a level one preparedness – meaning social distancing, limited business operations and hygiene guidelines are in place – though Mayor Rett Newton said the situation is being monitored and further restrictions may be imposed should virus threat escalate.
“If we start to see a significant increase in positive cases or an influx of people that are not taking this threat seriously, we will not hesitate to increase our Beaufort measures to protect our community,” he said during remarks at the end of Monday’s session.
At the height of Beaufort’s restrictions to date, the town operated an entry checkpoint, limiting access to fulltime residents, those conducting essential business and second homeowners previously sheltering in place in town. The checkpoint drew mixed reception from the general public.
Town staff said during the work session they are assessing the effect of the virus and restrictions on revenues and expenditures in the current fiscal budget and will request the board appropriate $100,000 from the general fund to cover COVID-19 expenditures to date.
“That may be a little bit high but I feel like it’s going to be pretty close, based on the numbers that we’ve run and what we’ve experienced to date,” Ms. Wood told the board. “I’ve also asked for an appropriation of $100,000 contingency just for any (unexpected) unforeseen expenditures that may occur prior to (Tuesday) June 30.”
The requests are part of a budget amendment the board will consider at its Monday, May 11 meeting, alongside a list of what the expenditures entail.
Ms. Wood said the town had ordered about $40,000 in supplies – like barricades for the checkpoint and the rental of electronic signage – and there have also been labor expenditures, primarily for the fire and police departments.
“Those are the large items,” she said.
The town will seek Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement on all the expenses. A request to name Town Manager John Day and Ms. Wood as applicant agents for the FEMA process will be before the board May 11.
After discussion, the board Monday approved an amendment to a personnel policy to allow staff flexibility to determine work schedules, locations, hours and compensation during states of emergency. A similar policy had been in place and used during hurricanes, Mr. Day told the board, but it specified the suspension of services as a trigger, which has not occurred during the pandemic crisis. The board said it wanted to revisit the policy later for more discussion.
Additionally, Mr. Day proposed a new calendar for the fiscal 2020-21 budget process, noting due to virus-related work, staff was behind schedule.
If approved, the public hearing on the town’s 2020-21 budget will be Monday, June 22.
Contact Jackie Starkey at 252-726-7081, ext. 225; email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.