Jeffrey M. Smith. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith warns that the city might have to lay off employees to get through the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus.

With restaurants, bars and businesses closed, Mayor Smith warned on Monday that sales tax revenues will take a beating as long as businesses cannot reopen.

The city relies on nearly 50 percent of its revenues on sales taxes, he said.

“It’s going to be a bleak outlook, to say the least,” Mayor Smith said.

He’s already talked to City Manager Kenneth A. Mix and City Comptroller James E. Mills several times about where budget deliberations could go as the city faces the impact from the pandemic on city finances.

They are looking at large and small budget items and capital projects to cut costs, he said.

They’re looking at such things as opening just one of the two pools this summer, which would save the city between $80,000 and $100,000. Holding off a year on repairing the VanDuZee bridge also might be considered, he said.

Discussions about planning for the 2020-21 budget will continue with department heads. They had already started before the coronavirus hit. He said the proposed budget will be delivered on time.

Mayor Smith also is worried that the city could lose some of its state aid. For the past several years, the city has received $1.4 million in state aid.

He’s frustrated that the is using $1.8 million in fund balance to construct the Thompson Park pool, when the money could have been used to help the city get through the year. The pool project was a political hot potato during the mayoral election last fall.

After the proposed budget is released late next month, City Council members will meet for discussion before adopting it in late May. Mayor Smith expects that a public hearing on the proposed budget will still be held but is not sure how it will be handled because of COVID-19.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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