Oak Harbor analyzes COVID-19’s impact on city revenues

Oak Harbor’s revenue was not heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the first three months of the year, according to a recent analysis by the city’s finance director.

But the picture will likely change when the city receives more up-to-date information from the state.

City Finance Director Patricia Soule gave a presentation during Wednesday night’s city council meeting, examining the city’s revenue sources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the numbers are the most recent available to the city, some of the data is incomplete and delayed.

Revenue the city shares with the state — such as fuel tax, sales tax and the lodging tax — only extends into March. And revenue the city shares with the county extends into April.

Soule said the pandemic’s impact on revenues were minimal through March, but she doesn’t expect that trend continued over the next two months.

“We should see the deepest impacts in April and May,” she said.

The city has more recent data on the city’s general fund revenues, which have decreased slightly. From January to May, the general fund decreased by $186,210, about 4 percent when compared to the same time last year.

Aside from the general fund, revenue generated from the city’s sewage treatment, or wastewater, rate showed another 4 percent drop. Over the course of five months, the city has lost $174,348 in wastewater revenue when compared to the same period last year.

Soule said most of the wastewater revenue drop is likely due to the fact that the city is not charging interest and penalties on late fees, and also because the city has not increased the utility rates yet.

The city’s sales tax revenue has decreased by about 4 percent. Soule said most of the decrease is associated with the fact that construction on the sewage treatment plant has been completed.

Sales tax revenue from retail purchases, however, have increased when compared to last year, but again that is based on March numbers, at the start of the pandemic.

“As we know people were stockpiling,” Soule said. “During the time when other businesses like restaurants and hotels were down, retail sales was one of our largest sales tax items.”

The city’s revenue from the lodging tax went down 30 percent or $16,000. While the lodging tax is expected to be one of the hardest hit revenue streams, Soule said having the Navy stationed on Whidbey Island mitigated some of the losses.

“We’re probably safer than some of the cities around because we have the Navy here, and they were quarantining people in hotels,” Soule said.

She will present council members with updated numbers every month as more data becomes available.

“Right now we don’t really now what it is going to look like,” Soule said.

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