Collierville addresses COVID-19 effects on budget, town operations

By Updated: March 27, 2020 9:59 AM CT | Published: March 26, 2020 7:25 PM CT

Collierville will continue to have meetings in Town Hall, but the public will not be allowed to attend.

The town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen decided Thursday, March 26, their meetings will be broadcast online so the public can view.

“We are putting off hard questions for later,” Town Administrator James Lewellen said.

Mayor Stan Joyner said it was “the best plan (he had) heard.”

The board discussed the issue in a work session at the library. The five aldermen, the mayor, town administrator, his assistant and the public information officer gathered in a room and remained 6 feet apart. 

<strong>James Lewellen</strong>

James Lewellen

The board is aiming to meet for routine items.

Development requests will be put on hold, Lewellen said, so the town can keep fewer than 10 people in a room, as outlined by the town’s “Safer at Home” order. Most development requests require a public hearing.

While Collierville allows a public comments portion in its meetings, it is not required by law and the administration is striving to eliminate topics people would want to address for the time being.

The only upcoming item requiring a public hearing is the budget, which will be reviewed before July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year. In recent years, no one has spoken during the budget public hearing.

As the town reviews the budget, it expects a drop-off in sales tax. Many of Collierville’s businesses are closed or have reduced operations.

 

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Last year, the town’s share of sales tax was about $11.1 million. Due to the coronavirus, Lewellen said he plans for at least an 8% decrease, which is about $900,000.

The town is not proposing a tax increase. State street aid will be less and Lewellen expects less revenue from development fees.

“That’s $1.7 million less than we expected two weeks ago,” he said.

Developers may pull back. While Clara’s Ridge subdivision was supposed to come back for consideration in April, the board will wait to take action. Schilling Farms is scheduled for review in June, but it could be later depending on COVID-19.

Alderman Billy Patton recommended the town budget for capital expenditures but wait to purchase them until there is a better grasp on the virus’ effects.

About $600,000 was requested by staff for new programming, but Lewellen said the requests could wait another year.

“I’ve asked staff their requests be flat if not less than last year,” he said, noting he wants the budget to be “conservative.

“By July, we won’t have any idea what next year is going to be like,” Lewellen said.

The board also discussed potential effects of COVID-19 on town operations in the Thursday work session.

For now, recycling is on hold. Collierville uses West TN Recycling Hub and the facility uses inmates for most of the sorting line. As inmates are unable to leave the prison facilities due to COVID-19, the recycling facility does not have staff.

While aldermen hoped for a solution by Monday, they said it is not possible. Residents may hang onto their items or put their bin on the curb on their scheduled pickup day and items will be taken to the landfill.

While board members discussed using another collection company, it would cost about $5,000 and the board did not want to enter a contract with another facility that could potentially limit services or close due to the virus.

While some municipalities have allowed staff to work from home, Collierville has not allowed it yet. However, staff has asked if it will be allowed.

“My fear right now is we don’t know how long they (would be) going home for,” Lewellen said, noting it creates a concern about pay.

He said if only essential employees came in, they may ask for additional pay.

“We hear different scenarios, and this could be going on for several months,” Lewellen said, noting there are many unknowns about the virus and its effects.

There are instances where employees may get paid to be home. If an employee contracts the COVID-19 or is quarantined due to job duties, the town will continue to pay. If it is unclear how an employee contracted the virus, the employee will be asked to use paid sick days.

“Right now, the thing is if you get sick, that’s what sick leave is for,” Lewellen said. “If you get quarantined by mandate, the town will pay you for two weeks.”

Employees who feel like they need to be home but are not sick are asked to use vacation time.

“If we get assistance money when this (COVID-19) is over, we may look back to reward employees for this time,” Lewellen said.

Lewellen said there is a lot of concern among town staff right now, and the circumstances are unprecedented.

“The future of what to expect is day by day,” he said. “It’s a situation I’ve never dealt with before. Nobody has.”

Topics

Collierville Stan Joyner James Lewellen 2020-21 budget coronavirus COVID-19

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren  is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis.  She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


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