Coronavirus pares Douglas revenues
Until the St. Patrick’s Day closing of Nevada’s casinos and many businesses due to the coronavirus outbreak, Douglas County’s economy had been chugging along.
Room tax collections were at 100 percent of projections, Douglas County commissioners learned on Thursday.
Taxable sales for January were up 13.2 percent in the county to $64.4 million, according to the Nevada Department of Taxation.
The county was also coming off a good February at the Stateline casinos.
Figures released by the Gaming Control Board showed the casinos’ revenue was up 21.36 percent for February, thanks in part to a strong take at the Super Bowl.
On Thursday, Commission Chairman Barry Penzel issued a statement encouraging residents and staff to hold fast.
“This is a time of great uncertainty and anxiety for all of us, but I want to assure you that although it might feel like life has been canceled, this community and its leadership have not been canceled,” he said.
He asked residents to honor first-responders and medical professionals by staying home, washing their hands and finding ways to take care of themselves and their family.
County Manager Patrick Cates said the pandemic is going to have significant effects on the economy.
“The measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 instituted by the State of Nevada, and many other jurisdictions, will have a disproportionate impact on Nevada’s hospitality industries,” he said. “Douglas County depends on this sector for 11 percent of its gross regional product and 23 percent of its jobs.”
As a result of the decline in county revenues, all vacant positions are subject to a hiring freeze and purchases will be limited to those essential to the coronavirus response, other emergencies, contracts or keeping essential county services in place.
Commissioners are scheduled to begin virtual budget meetings on Tuesday, which will raise questions about how the county will deal with the budgetary hole created by the quarantine.
Cates said commissioners will be asked to approve the budget without supplemental requests, that may end up being considered after the crisis is over.
“Our economy was strong before this event,” he said. “Economic recovery may come swiftly. While we hope for the best, we must plan for the worst and be prepared to weather the storm.”
Chief Financial Officer Terri Willoughby said she is working with her colleagues in other counties on how to plan for the coming fiscal year.
Willoughby said the shutdown will have an immediate effect on the budget.
She said the county was ahead of projections for both property and the consolidated tax that includes sales tax, which are the county’s two key sources of revenue.
“We were still ahead of projections, but I don’t know what the total impact this fiscal year will be,” she said.
Penzel speculated that taxable sales might increase for March due to increased purchases at local stores.
While Nevada doesn’t tax food groceries, sales tax is charged on items like toilet paper, paper towels and antiseptic wipes.