Coronavirus precautions are affecting bottom lines all around

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CANANDAIGUA — The equation is fairly simple to set up for most any student learning from home these days.

Social distancing to avoid the spread of the coronavirus + people not spending money, either because of the closing and reduced hours of businesses or the actual or fear of loss of jobs = decline in sales tax revenue.

The answer, however, is unknown at this point because so many variables are in play. The coronavirus impact on sales tax this year has been estimated at anywhere from 4 percent to 20 to 25 percent.

Canandaigua City Manager John Goodwin has put the figure now at more than $1 million, although information changes seemingly by the minute.

“We don’t know what we don’t know at this point,” Goodwin said during a Canandaigua City Council Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night.

The city has instituted a hiring freeze as well as a pause on any major capital projects that have not yet started, Goodwin said.

Much could change, either for the worse or better.

“Anytime you freeze something, you can thaw it,” Goodwin said.

The city is not alone, as other municipalities are anticipating losses as well.

Ontario County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Marren, who also is Victor town supervisor, has met with town department heads and talked of holding off on purchasing equipment and training.

At the county level, equipment purchases and road projects may end up being on hold, he said. Factor in the state, which is facing a budget deficit of its own, and is possibly holding off sending aid to local municipalities.

“Very concerning,” Marren said.

Farmington Supervisor Peter Ingalsbe said town officials are looking at everything, from gas and electric bills to putting a halt on purchases to also delaying major projects.

“I think it’s going to be a big concern,” Ingalsbe said.

Canandaigua Mayor Bob Palumbo said more information on which city projects could be potentially affected may be shared at the next City Council meeting, scheduled for April 2.

“We don’t have definites on that,” Palumbo said.

As part of developing the current budget, city officials counted on revenue through the occupancy tax in anticipation of the opening of the Lake House at Canandaigua — the revamped Inn on the Lake — and Hotel Canandaigua, formerly known as the Canandaigua Finger Lakes Resort.

Should restrictions on gatherings, business operations and travel continue indefinitely, visitors may be sheltered at home.

“Obviously, that’s going to take a hit,” Palumbo said.

Trying to find a way to mitigate all of that is going to be difficult, Goodwin said, and is something that has to be continually looked at with the city's mission in mind.

“We’re going to prepare to serve the city as best we can,” Goodwin said.