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Roanoke Rapids City Council Tuesday night approved the city’s $15,850,253 budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Before council approved the financial plan City Manager Joseph Scherer gave an overview of the document, which keeps the tax rate the same and makes no use of fund balance.

It is a barebones spending and revenue-generating plan which keeps funding for employees benefits at the current level but includes no cost of living adjustments or merit raises. It does continue to fund longevity and includes a holiday bonus.

The city will continue to fund a 3 percent match for its 401(k) plan but there is no money included for major capital equipment purchases.

“COVID-19 has had a shocking impact on both the global and American economies,” the city manager said. “Economic experts vary wildly on how our economy will look this coming fiscal year.”

The global economy is already experiencing a sudden and significant downturn, Scherer said, and the decline in commodity prices, especially oil, will likely reduce investment spending in the United States. “ … Even under relatively benign assumptions about the future course of the illness, (the United States Gross Domestic Product) will likely plunge in the first quarter and very likely fall further in the second quarter.”

However, Scherer said a large number of economists believe that the immediate economic impact is likely to fade within the year as a vaccine or the natural progression of an epidemic reduces the number of infections and “consumers venture out of their homes to resume eating at restaurants and shopping for more than groceries and hand sanitizer. The economy will likely recover quickly once that happens.”

The city manager said predictions must consider whether the outbreak begins to recede by the end of summer and people are able to return to normal activities during the summer and into fall or if the outbreaks of the disease continue to affect economic activity for over a year.

The goal of the city’s financial plan, Scherer said, is to “continue to provide quality services and amenities within our limited means.”

The upcoming fiscal year is expected to hold a challenge for the city with the continued unknown economic impacts of the pandemic. “We will need to be more resolute in our management of expenses against revenue received for prioritizing our funds' use for maximum return of investment against benefit.”

Said Scherer: “Despite the uncertainty of the economic impact of the COVID-19 virus, we are confident that our long-term prospects for improvement remain good. As we move forward we remain committed to providing quality services to all our citizens.”

Councilman Wayne Smith made the motion to approve the budget, which passed after a second by Councilwoman Suetta Scarbrough.