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COVID complicates budget outlook for Roanoke



Roanoke, Virginia -The economic fallout from COVID-19 continues to cause financial challenges for local governments. Roanoke is no exception.

As council members get to work on a new budget, the impact of the pandemic and the uncertainly about what lies ahead will continue to complicate their decisions.

COVID precautions prompted City Council members to spread out during a strategic planning session at the City Market Building Tuesday. And it was clear from the start of the budget presentation that the financial impact of the pandemic continues to loom large.

“Obviously, nothing going on right now will affect the shape of our FY22 budget more than the COVID-19 response and recovery,” City Manager Bob Cowell told council members.

The impact on the budget that ended in June was actually less than expected. And so far, current revenues are holding up against revised projections. But with more difficult months ahead, and the depth of economic fallout still uncertain, Cowell said the city must be cautious as it develops a new spending plan.

“So it really is, kind of, keep building the budget that we feel like we can afford to actually build,” Cowell said in an interview, “but be ready to pivot if necessary, based on whatever is going on at the moment.”

“We are a resilient city,” Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea added, “and we are going to continue to show that as we go forward in the midst of the uncertainty of COVID-19.”

City Council members and city staff have plenty of work ahead, with a budget process that will play out between now and approval next May.

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