Auburn Mayor Ron Anders gave an update on the Covid-19 pandemic in Auburn to Chamber of Commerce members during its Tuesday Talk virtual meeting this week, as many of the organization's members continue the process of reopening their businesses to customers in response to the lifting of restrictions in the amended Safer at Home order announced by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey last Friday.
Anders cautioned against losing vigilance in practicing social distancing and good safety measures as businesses reopen in the area, saying doing what is essential is not easy.
"Don't allow your freedoms to make your habits sloppy," said Anders, who indicated that he will adhere to medical experts' recommendation of wearing a mask in public settings. "Let's don't be a hotspot."
Anders said 129 Auburn residents have tested positive for Covid-19 so far and that seven have died.
The city of Auburn was well-prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic, added Anders, who noted the city's business continuity plan and reserve fund, which is more than $40 million, according to City Manager Jim Buston.
While city officials are still analyzing revenue numbers from April, collections from April are possibly about $500,000 less than budget projections for the month.
"Right now, we're looking at sales taxes of about $362,700 less than what we budgeted for, but we budgeted for more than what we took in last year, so I'm still working on those numbers," said Buston, who added that revenue collected from occupational license fees and lodging tax were about $39,000 and $120,000 less than what the city budgeted. "We'll see April as being half a million lower than we budgeted, which is probably going to be more than it was last year because we always budget more anticipating an increase in revenues, especially since the economy was going so good."
Anders has been in frequent talks with leadership at Auburn University, and said that officials have not yet made a determination on whether students will return for fall semester classes or football.
"They have not made the final decision as to what we'll see with potentially fall semester, what we'll see with football," he said. "Each of them know how important that is for our community ... that we'll have fans here in September and that the Tigers will run out of the tunnel and that the eagle will fly around the stadium and that our economy will be bolstered by all those visitors that are coming to our community. But right now there's no guarantee that that's going to happen."
Construction of the downtown public parking deck on Wright Street, which recently started, will continue, although other capital projects have been put on hold, like those arising from the Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan, said Anders.
The process of drafting the Auburn 2040 Strategic Plan, which was set to begin with meetings in April, has also been indefinitely postponed. Anders said he is not sure when the Auburn 2040 Plan process will resume, saying it could be in the fall or in 2021.
Anders also praised city staff for continuing to provide essential services during the pandemic, despite the difficulties associated with meeting remotely in many cases. He also praised the work of the Economic Development Department and its implementation of the Work Capital Loan Interest Subsidy Program, which provides businesses interest subsidies on loans with participating lending institutions.
He also touted the hard work and efforts of many in the community, from the Food Bank of East Alabama's to feed the food insecure in the community to the Auburn residents who are making masks or shopping for seniors.
To find updates on the resources available to the community, visit www.auburnalabama.org/coronavirus/business-resources/.