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Covid-19 takes a bite out of Roseburg budget

The coronavirus has taken a significant bite out of revenues for the City of Roseburg, which has led to cuts in spending and a steep drop in the amount the city is able to put away in reserve.

“We are being greatly impacted by COVID,” finance director Ron Harker told the City Council Monday as he delivered his quarterly report on city finances. The report covered the last six months of 2020 and focused on that time period compared to the same period in 2019. Harker also used those numbers to project what the fiscal year will likely look like, compared to the previous year.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Tax collections, including property taxes, are projected to result in a budget shortfall of $717,336 for the fiscal year.
  • Combined revenue collections are projected to result in a budget shortfall of $910,688.
  • Collections from licenses, permits and fees are projected to result in a budget shortfall of $220,749.
  • Revenues from the gas tax were budgeted to bring in about $3.2 million for the fiscal year, but will likely only produce about half that amount. That means some transportation projects will be postponed.

The bottom line for the city’s general fund: while officials had initially anticipated adding more than $700,000 to reserves this year, that amount will likely be about $50,000.

“While not ideal, given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a good outcome,” the report said.

In response to the pandemic, city departments are spending less this year in an effort to offset a drop in revenue, Harker said. Total projected expenditures in the general fund for the fiscal year are $25 million, which translates to a budgetary savings of just over $1.9 million for the fiscal year, the report said.

“What this means is the departments are very much aware of the constraints the city is experiencing,” Harker said.

However, year-to-date general fund spending is up by nearly $200,000 from the same period last year. That includes increases in the city manager’s office (15%), the library (11%), capital improvements (10.8%) and parks and recreation (9.5%).

The budgets for the police and fire departments remained about the same, and there were small decreases in public works and community development.

There are a couple of bright spots in the budget report.

Revenue from the state on taxes generated from the sale of tobacco, marijuana and liquor is up considerably, resulting in a budget surplus of $144,107. “The increase is partially attributable to vice revenues related to liquor, and marijuana being up as Oregonians are self-medicating through the pandemic,” the budget report said.

Also, revenue from the tax on hotel, motel and other short-term stays increased by 13% in the last three months of 2020, compared to the same period last year. That rebound came on the heels of an 18% decrease in revenue in the summer months.

Harker said the late-year increase in the bed tax may be attributed to victims of the Archie Creek fire staying in hotels and other temporary housing. Renters become exempt from that tax if they stay for more than 45 days, so if the revenue increase is related to fire victims it may not last, Harker said.

“This has really been a unique year, we really don’t know what’s happening,” he said. “We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

In other budget news, the annual audit of city finances showed no irregularities or problems. The audit, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, was conducted by the Roseburg CPA firm Neuner Davidson & Co.

Sheep tales

Raising kids isn’t always easy, especially if you are a sheep living along Highway 138 East on Monday. Sometimes your newborn lamb will stray too close to the fence, causing one ewe some anxious moments until her young one finally trots back to the fold. Sometimes, your siblings might act sensible and stay close to home, there’s always that one outlier lamb who appears to dance like everyone is watching.

Seniors urged to remain patient as vaccine eligibility begins for those 80 and older

State and local health officials urged seniors to remain patient as vaccine eligibility began for those 80 and over Monday.

There are about 7,200 seniors in Douglas County who are 80 or older, but the county expects to receive just 700 vaccines this week.

About 168,000 people in that age group in Oregon are eligible, but the vaccine supply remains scarce statewide as well.

The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team announced plans last week for seniors in this county to receive vaccinations from some local doctors, medical clinics and pharmacies.

No organizations will offer walk-in shots, and some organizations won’t yet have vaccines to give, so seniors need to call for appointments after their age groups become eligible.

Pharmacies will receive vaccinations directly from the federal government, rather than through the state, and the Oregon Health Authority said Monday it’s still awaiting information on when the federal government will send those vaccines to pharmacies.

“My promise to older Oregonians is this: if you want a vaccination, you will get one. But it may not be tomorrow, this week or even two weeks from now. But you will get one,” Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen said in a press release Monday.

Seniors 75 and older will become eligible Feb. 15. Those 70 and older become eligible Feb. 22. Those 65 and older will be eligible March 1.

Douglas County and Douglas Public Health Network operate a COVID-19 Hotline at 541-464-6550 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Members of the public are being asked to hold questions about getting a vaccine until they become eligible for one.

The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reported 19 new cases and one new death Sunday.

An 85-year-old man who was diagnosed with COVID-19 Feb. 3 died Sunday. He was the county’s 49th person to die of the disease.

The response team reported six new cases and no new deaths on Monday.

Roseburg Public Schools announced Sunday it had been notified a student at Fir Grove Elementary School tested positive for COVID-19.

Individuals who may have been exposed have been contacted and are isolating and being monitored for symptoms, the school district said.

Students in quarantine will transition temporarily to remote learning.

Ten Douglas County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19, seven locally and three out of the area.

The Douglas Public Health Network is supporting 162 people with the disease who are in isolation and another 330 people who have been in contact with an infected person and are in quarantine.