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City of Grand Island budget shows pandemic impact less than expected

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 9:54 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - It’s budget season in Grand Island and city officials are noticing they didn’t lose nearly as much money as they were predicting they would when the pandemic first hit.

The city’s Financial Director Patrick Brown originally predicted roughly an 11 percent drop in revenue this year, but that did not actually happen.

“If you look at our sales tax receipts from March to September, specifically April and May were down the furthest and it gradually came back,” Brown said. “We’re going to see a continuing growth there as well.”

The biggest drop the city saw was in car sales, but that number skyrocketed again earlier this year. Another business that was hit hard were restaurants and people really made up for those losses these last few months.

Robin Schilling is a share holder of the Chicken Coop and she says her loyal customers really helped get them through this last year.

“Through really the end of the calendar year, nothing felt normal,” Schilling said. “Our level of activity was down. The crowds were coming in and it was encouraging. Our regular customers are so loyal that people were coming in and it was increasing just enough to keep us encouraged. January 1, it was like the world woke up and was like things have to change.”

With restaurants serving more people, shoppers visiting more stores and tourism starting up again, it’s a cautiously optimistic time for Grand Island.

“Everything is looking better, but it’s still going to be a hard budget year,” Brown said. “The city did receive CARES Act money and American Rescue Plan funds.”

The city still has about $9 million in that federal aid they can use. They are now in discussion about what to use it for.

Brown said they have until 2024 to decide what they want to do with that money and until 2026 to actually use it.

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