Storage: Worst financial numbers from coronavirus ‘yet to come’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The most significant effects of the coronavirus pandemic on Charleston’s finances are “yet to come,” city manager Jonathan Storage warned during Monday’s Charleston City Council meeting.

Storage detailed lost revenues connected to the pandemic, including a loss in business and occupation tax, which makes up most of the city’s revenue.

“I can tell you that second quarter, our collections might be down as much as 20% based on prior collections compared to this upcoming year,” Storage said.

The city waived penalties and interest for taxpayers, and Storage noted the public took the opportunity.

Storage said the most severe decline involved the city’s hotel tax.

“In April, hotel-motel was down 43%, and in May alone, it was down 73% below projections had COVID-19 not occurred,” he said.

The city also did not take in any tax revenue from casinos or limited video lottery operations as such operations were closed amid the pandemic.

“It’s still shocking to see on our table,” Storage said.

Storage previously noted the city will end the fiscal year with a $2 million deficit as a result of the pandemic.

Storage said the city user fee will be lower, calling it a “wild-west prediction” based on people working from home rather than in offices.

The city will receive funding from the state to cover the payroll expenses of Charleston’s police, fire and refuse departments for March and April. The federal government provided West Virginia with $1.25 billion for covering coronavirus-related expenses. Storage said he anticipates the state government will continue to cover payroll costs through December.