The City of Santa Fe still faces major gaps in both the budget for the current fiscal year concluding at the end of this month, as well as the budget for FY21, which starts July 1.
Yet, new data indicates the city's losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn might be less severe than anticipated, Mayor Alan Webber said during a Monday news briefing. The city also can expect some money from the state, he said, praising state lawmakers for passing legislation in the ongoing special session that will lesson the financial blow to the city.
The special session was set to conclude shortly after the mayor's address, but he said "the work underway so far is very good news for Santa Fe, and we are very optimistic about what it will mean for us going forward."
Over the weekend, lawmakers whittled the state budget for the 2021 fiscal year from $7.6 billion to about $7 billion. The new budget includes the distribution of $150 million in federal CARES Act aid to cities with populations fewer than $500,000 to reimburse unanticipated costs in the COVID-19 response effort.
Webber said he anticipates Santa Fe could get around $10 million, which he hopes the city would be able to use to pay for expenses such as the setup and operation of the emergency shelter located at the Midtown campus.
The New Mexico House of Representatives members were still on the floor debating several high-profile bills Monday afternoon, including another item that ticks a box on the city's legislative wish list.
Senate Bill 3, The Small Business Recovery Act of 2020, would permit state investment council to put $400 million from the state's severance tax permanent fund into a new small business recovery loan fund and $100 million into loans for local governments.
The city received new reports of gross receipts tax revenues Monday morning for the month of April. Reports for GRT revenues always lag two months behind, making it hard for city officials to get a real-time perspective on the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the numbers from April indicate that the state is not in as dire a financial position as originally thought, Webber said.
GRT revenues for the city of Santa Fe decreased by 19% in April, he said. That's a $1.6 million decrease from April 2019.
Before they received these numbers, said Webber, the city had anticipated possible decreases of as much as 40% or 50%.
Two sectors saw an increase in revenues. Professional technical and scientific services increased by 16.5% over last year and construction increased by 5%. As expected, sectors dependent on tourism took major hits, with arts and entertainment down 89%, accommodations and food services 65% and retail down 26%.
GRT numbers for April primarily impact the current fiscal year budget and the $46 million deficit the city anticipated for FY20; however, it's not known how much the new information could change estimates for next year's tax revenue.
"I think what it means is that we can look potentially at ways we could anticipate a less severe deficit. I don't know how much less because we are still going to be flying blind in terms of May and June numbers… but we may be able to be a little bit less austere in every respect," he said, adding later, "It's not determinative but hopefully it's suggestive that we won't be quite as bad off as we were anticipating."