Sidney set for budget challenges

Sidney City Manager David Scott

SIDNEY — In the coming weeks, community boards and city councils across the state will be meeting to discuss budgets for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

With the deadline for submission coming up in September for implementation Oct. 1, Sidney city manager David Scott is working through mixed numbers to form a budget for the community.

A factor for the last couple of years has been a 12-15% drop in property tax revenue for the city.

“It’s always a challenge,” Scott said of the budget. “I don’t think we had to cut as much this year as we have in the past. I’m hearing word that property tax isn’t going to take a big (dip) like it did the last two years in a row. If it at least holds steady we might be able to finally gain some leverage.”

Sales tax revenues have been equally difficult to project for the city. Sales tax revenues from the state are reported two months in arrears, so the most recent figures reported in July would include May’s revenues. As an example of the fluctuation in Sidney, revenues from October 2019 (when the most recent budget was implemented) through May 2020 totaled $2,100,887, a drop of nearly $443,000 from the same time frame a year prior. However in those same months, the dip was only $72,000 when comparing revenues from October 2017 through May 2018.

“I’m not really quite sure where to go on sales tax,” Scott said. “For a couple years there, it was really going downward. Then it had leveled off and started coming back up, so you could kind of start maybe predicting a rebound in it, and then the COVID-19 came. Now, every estimate you could throw out there for next fiscal year is going to be hard to base on any kind of fact.”

In April and May 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic would have had it’s most significant impact on businesses and revenues, Sidney’s sales tax revenues were off more than $86,000 compared to 2019. However, the $493,369.51 due to the city is only down $13,568 from the same months in 2018.

“You had trends that you could predict before,” Scott said, “now it’s just going to be impossible to try to do any kind of forecasting that’s based on factual trends.”

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Reporter

Mark McCarthy is a reporter with the Star-Herald and oversees the Gering Courier as editor. He can be reached at 308-632-9049 or via email at mark.mccarthy@starherald.com.

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