DES MOINES, Iowa – Last Wednesday, The Iowa Torch reported that Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders said the coronavirus outbreak has severely affected city revenues with an estimated $25 million loss this fiscal year which he said will continue into the next fiscal year.
Josh Mandelbaum, a city councilman who represents Des Moines’ Third Ward (southwest quadrant of the city), responded to the announcement. “We’re obviously still looking into how to solve these shortfalls as they were just recently presented to us as a Council,” he told The Iowa Torch.
He outlined for The Iowa Torch principles he believes the city should consider addressing the revenue shortfall in the city’s budget.
“As positions become vacant, we should be evaluating both the continued need and then if we can get by delaying a replacement for some savings. We should look at shortfalls within enterprises to see if we can delay projects within the enterprise – for example, the $2.5 million dollar shortfall in sewer fees because there were fewer people downtown flushing toilets is linked to what we can do in that enterprise,” Mandelbaum said.
“We will likely have to look at delaying other capital projects as well – we were using the sales tax dollars to speed up much-needed street projects and the shortfall in sales tax revenue may mean we need to delay some of those projects,” he added.
He also said the city should consider “right-sizing” the city’s vehicle fleet not only in terms of the number of vehicles the city operates but also the type.
“There has been a tendency to buy bigger and more expensive vehicles,” Mandelbaum said. “Do we need all of the SUVs and trucks? In some cases we do, but (in) others a smaller, less expensive vehicle will likely do the job and help us meet environment goals.”
He said the city should look for other savings opportunities. For example, Mandelbaum said the new general obligation bonds on the City Council agenda for Monday they expect to generate $6 million in savings because of the lower rates compared to the existing debt.
“We have previously done so since COVID started and we should continue to look for similar savings,” he stated.