Camas finance director: second recession possible if COVID-19 pandemic worsens

Cathy Huber Nickerson, the city of Camas’ finance director, updated city council members about the city’s current financial situation during the Council’s workshop on Monday, June 20.

When Huber Nickerson last updated the Council, the city was in the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.

The most recent financial outlook took into account three months of partial shutdowns and recent business reopenings.

The city has seen a decrease in several forms of revenue over the second quarter, including many things that depend on in-person interactions such as court revenues, fines and forfeitures, and license and permit fees. On the plus side, sales taxes are up thanks to new construction and online sales, Huber Nickerson said, and property taxes, which had a delayed deadline due to the pandemic, are where they should be for this time of year.

The city’s general fund expenditures also are down, mostly due to measures city leaders took in March, such as implementing a new-hire freeze, not hiring seasonal workers, halting employee travel and conferences and deferring non-essential city projects.

As of June 30, Huber Nickerson said unemployment is higher but improving, at 11.1 percent on June 30 versus 3.5 percent on March 31, and home prices have appreciated.

Huber Nickerson said some of the things learned since the beginning of the pandemic are that while the stock market is recovering, the “real economy” is struggling and that “a quick reopening equals higher COVID-19” case numbers.

Huber Nickerson said the city’s nearly $9.3 million general fund reserve is “going to be essential to get (the city) into the next year if there’s a rollback to Phase 1 (shutdowns).”

Some of the most recent setbacks from rising COVID-19 numbers have given city managers pause, Huber Nickerson said.

“We’ve talked about a ‘W-shaped’ recession,” Huber Nickerson said, adding that the city is likely in the middle of the first recovery piece of that possible double-recession model.

She added that, if COVID-19 cases continue to increase, the city may face another downturn.

“We may be looking at the possibility of another recession if we have more COVID-19,” she said.

 

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