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City Manager's Blog

May 05

COVID-19 and the Budget

Posted on May 5, 2020 at 3:13 PM by Thomas Reeves

As we all continue to practice safe distancing from one another in this crazy time in which we’re living, I miss seeing all the foot traffic around Tenth Street Place.  I stood out in front of the building (our City Hall) the other day and, looking out onto 11th Street at all the quiet storefronts, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of anxiety over the question of when life will get back to normal.  And yet by now we’ve all come to some level of realization that life won’t simply get back to normal, or at least not the normal we were comfortable with before COVID-19.  

Today Governor Newsom mapped out a general framework for how he anticipates “re-opening” the economy through non-essential businesses.  No one knows for certain how long this pandemic will disturb us, but every economist agrees this pandemic has and will continue to substantially and negatively impact our economy.  

I don’t mind telling you I am concerned about our local economy and the City’s ability to sustain services.  Several of our major revenue categories, including sales tax and transient occupancy tax (hotel tax) have been severely compromised in the current fiscal year, and will continue to be impacted next fiscal year. 

We anticipate falling short of our budget targets, and the loss in revenue will have a significant impact on the City’s year-end financial position.  As we move into estimating potential impacts to the City revenues for Fiscal Year 2020-21 and beyond, the picture becomes less clear.  We know that losses will continue – and make no mistake, the losses are projected to be deep – but to what magnitude is still to be determined.  

You may have heard about potential funding sources in the form of federal stimulus packages. One directly benefits Stanislaus County (The CARES Act) and the other, not yet voted on by Congress, may provide direct funding to cities of our size.  We are closely monitoring and working with our local legislators to express our needs, but it is still too soon to say whether or not either of these sources will directly benefit this city.  

In the midst of this pandemic, the Modesto leadership team is keeping a watchful eye on this year’s budget, and also trying to develop a balanced budget for the next fiscal year.  The impact we are projecting this to have on our current year budget is profound and we are doing all we can to stem the losses in revenue by reducing expenses; I’ve already authorized a spending and hiring freeze through at least the end of June and it will likely continue for the foreseeable future.  

These are uncharted waters we’re all navigating across, and I appreciate your support and understanding.  The COVID-19 virus has caused us all to take a hard look at our own personal and business finances, and I'm sure you would agree that it’s not an enjoyable exercise.  

Change is not always fun, and it’s likely the only thing we can count on during this challenging time, but I am confident in this: change brings growth.  

And I am all for growth.
Mar 23

March 23 COVID-19 Update: Here’s What We Know

Posted on March 23, 2020 at 4:04 PM by Thomas Reeves

It’s been roughly one week since the City of Modesto started taking drastic steps to ensure we do our part to slow the spread of coronavirus, but it’s been since January when it was found in China that our team of emergency personnel truly started to review how this pandemic could affect our community.  We’ve been pouring over our emergency plans for months and have been working closely with the Emergency Operations Center staffed by the County, the Health Officer, and other important partners.  Around the clock, your local government is working hard to ensure the safety and health of its constituents, but also to ensure we get out as much information as possible.  

Here’s what we know
  • As of this writing, there are nine (9) confirmed cases of coronavirus in Stanislaus County. 
  • The Governor has issued a Shelter-in-Place Order for the entire state, calling for all Californians to stay home unless making essential trips.
  • Most City buildings and facilities are closed to public access, and most meetings and activities have been cancelled or postponed.  
  • All City services to your home continue as normal, and should you need to conduct business with City Hall – for business license, permitting, or for questions about your utility bill – check out our COVID-19 page or call (209) 577-5200.
  • There are simple things you can do to help keep yourself and others healthy.  Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.  Stay home when you are sick.  Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • You can help stop COVID-19 by knowing the signs and symptoms: Fever; Cough; Shortness of breath.  Seek medical advice if you develop symptoms AND have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. 
  • For most people, the immediate risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low.  Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.
We also know, from experts and examples around the globe, that the number of cases will increase – in this county and around the world – and that we can expect to be dealing with this disease for many weeks and potentially even months.  

Do your part

It’s important to remember that although this virus is new and many of us have not dealt with this type of crisis before, it’s clear that each of us play a role in slowing the spread.  
  • Stay home if you are able and avoid in-person contact with others.
  • Avoid gatherings and events, and maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from others.
  • Know the COVID-19 symptoms, and seek treatment if:
    • you have difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
    • you feel like symptoms (such as fever and cough) are getting worse rapidly
    • you are unable to care for symptoms at home
  • Get tested through your local healthcare provider if you experience these symptoms
Stay connected

I encourage you to seek information from trusted sources.  Like, follow, and share these pages:

On the Web:
City of Modesto COVID-19 Page
Stanislaus County's StanEmergency Page

On Facebook:
Mar 20

COVID-19 and Stay-at-Home Order

Posted on March 20, 2020 at 3:29 PM by Thomas Reeves

The City leadership team and Mayor Brandvold continues to meet daily for long stretches as we navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 environment in which we’re living.  I acknowledge there may be a bit of uncertainty over two announcements that came out yesterday, one from our City Council and the other from our Governor.  

First, the City Council held a special meeting and voted in favor of adopting a proclamation of existence of a local emergency in response to the Coronavirus.  I previously signed this declaration under my authority as the City’s Director of Emergency Services, and this action by the council was necessary for ratification.  As part of this proclamation, the council called for residents to stay at home if they are able, and to limit non-essential trips to public spaces.

Also, later in the evening, the Governor announced his own Executive Order mandating California residents “stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.”  As local government is considered one of these infrastructures, we will continue to operate and serve our public to the best of our ability.

Perhaps the Governor’s messages yesterday and over the last week or so has left you feeling concerned and even disconnected.  I can assure you the leadership team, Mayor, and council are here to support you and to urge you to keep going.  We’re in this together, and we will get through this.

For more information about what a Stay-at-Home order means, please visit the Governor's special COVID-19 page on this topic.