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Columbus Expects $42 Million Revenue Hit From Pandemic

Columbus City Hall statue outside Columbus City Hall
David Holm
/
WOSU
Columbus City Hall

Columbus officials believe the city will bring in $41.5 million less this year than originally projected, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Heading into the year, forecasters were already expecting to bring in slightly less tax revenue than last year. But after the state shutdown orders and resulting job losses, even those projections look a bit too rosy.

Columbus Auditor Megan Kilgore warns there could be more bad news coming.

“The nature of taxes are lagging. We are starting to see the impact of COVID in our withholdings,” she explains. “But it’s going to take time to fully realize for example the impact to corporate profits, which we won’t see for quite some time.”

The largest stream of city revenue is income tax withholdings collected by local businesses. It’s a model that plays out around Ohio, because cities have so few other options for generating income. As job losses mount, local leaders around the state grow increasingly concerned about how big a hole COVID-19 will leave in their budget.

The revised projection for Columbus represents a nearly 5% decline year-over-year, and Kilgore says the impacts will likely be felt in 2021.

“This will have effects downstream,” Kilgore says. “We have absolutely begun the conversation with our colleagues upstairs in the mayor’s office and on city council about what does 2021 look like.”

Still, Kilgore predicts a steady recovery for Columbus barring a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. She says that, despite Columbus’ reliance on income taxes, many of the large employers in the area appear to be coping well. She also notes few of them have seen major supply chain disruptions.