The city of New Albany is bracing for a possible drop in sales tax collections due to businesses being closed or partially closed as a result of the coronavirus.
City officials will not know until May what the sales tax collections for March will be.
“We don’t have any idea how this is going to affect our sales tax,” said City Clerk Frankie Roberts.
Currently, the city is still in good shape financially, said Mayor Tim Kent.
However, the mayor said the city is cutting back on expenses as it prepares for a possible decrease in sales tax collections for March and April.
“I’ve already stopped all spending unless it’s just an emergency,” he said. “Even if it’s a budgeted item we’re not getting it right now until we see how these sales taxes are going to shake out.”
The mayor noted that the city still has to keep departments operating but is not purchasing anything extra right now.
Roberts said the city collected $256,629 in sales taxes in January and $263,203 in February, but those months were prior to the coronavirus impacting the local economy.
The city has budgeted to receive about $3.8 million in sales tax this year. Last year, the city collected $3.5 million in sales tax, Roberts said.
Blue Springs Mayor Rita Gentry said her town’s economy is also hurting.
"The economy in a small town like Blue Springs is just about non-existent now," Gentry said. "With Toyota being closed, our store is really hurting and it is our main business in town. I know every town's economy is hurting right now and I understand that, but when you're a small town like ours, with really only one business for tax base and it's crippled, it's bad. But we will get through this with God's help."
Meanwhile, it is unclear when the city of New Albany can get back to normal, but it may not be until around the first of June.
“We’re going to try to slowly loosen things up,” Kent said.
Union County has been very fortunate to have some of the lowest coronavirus numbers in the state, he said. He thinks people in Union County have taken the threat seriously and are using common sense.
The splash pad will probably be one of the last things to open because it attracts such a crowd, he said. Normally, the splash pad opens around Memorial Day, but this year it may not open until around the end of June if at all.
Local businesses are doing the best they can to get through this crisis. Tallahatchie Gourmet has been offering curbside pickup of meals, and delivery is available as well through New Albany Food Dash.
Kellie Medlock, manager at Tallahatchie Gourmet, said she thinks things have been going really well at the business despite the circumstances. She noted that the restaurant has “good, loyal” customers.
Tallahatchie Gourmet has not been as busy as it would be normally, but Medlock said, “I think we’re learning a new norm.”
The restaurant is using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to encourage customers to come by.
“I think we’re doing pretty good considering what’s going on,” said Medlock.
The restaurant is offering fish and chicken specials of Friday and Saturday nights, and people are taking those meals home to their families.
“We’re hanging in there,” said Medlock, adding that the restaurant has gone down to a smaller menu in the wake of the crisis.
Asked how anxious she is for things to get back to normal, Medlock said, “I think we’re going to do the best thing to keep our customers safe.”
Medlock does not know how quickly the restaurant will be able reopen its doors for normal operations. She said the business will keep working with the governor and the mayor.
“When it’s safe, we’ll open the doors,” she said.
Carolyn Davis, owner of 2 Sisters Diner, said things have been “kind of crazy” since the coronavirus struck the nation.
“We’re thankful that people are calling to get to-go orders or curbside,” she said, adding that food delivery options are also available.
While some people have supported the business during this difficult time, Davis said there has been “a drastic loss in revenue” for local restaurants and other businesses.
Davis noted that she also owns New Albany Floral and Gifts, which has also taken a hit with proms being canceled.
“We lost our prom season, and the kids have lost out on that,” she said.
The “mom and pop” businesses have suffered during this time, Davis added.
“No offense to the corporate giants, but each one of us local mom and pops, you know we’re the backbone of the town,” Davis said.
Local businesses support ball teams, families in need and other good causes, she said. Now local businesses need the people of New Albany and Union County to keep supporting them because “we’re all struggling just to try to keep the doors open.”
She said her business is cleaning and sanitizing multiple times a day and trying to follow all the guidelines. Local restaurants and other businesses have high standards because “we have been here a long number of years.”
She misses the days when people might have to wait to get a seat inside her diner because it was so busy.
“I miss my customers,” she said. “My customers are like our family.”
Moreover, she said her customers are ready for things to get back to normal so they can come in, sit down and socialize. She noted that she has a lot of clientele who may live alone and not cook, and the coronavirus situation has been hard on them.
“They came here to eat and to socialize,” she said.
Davis said she wishes she had a crystal ball to say when things would get back to normal. The main priority is making sure everything is done safely, she said.
“I want us to do what we need to do to keep everyone safe,” she said, adding that the leaders are trying to make the best decisions. “I don’t know what the new normal is going to be.”
She believes people should be praying for those in leadership positions.
In the meantime, she said her restaurant has a Facebook page where daily menus are posted. And on Friday and Saturday nights 2 Sisters Diner serves up some of the best steaks, shrimp and catfish anywhere, she said.
The restaurant has had to cut out serving breakfast, and employee hours have also been cut back. It is hard to not offer breakfast at this time because so many people used to come in and enjoy “chit-chatting” in the mornings, Davis said.
Some restaurants around town are not even open at this time, and boutiques have also been struggling.
For instance, Crystal Hancock, owner of My Three Blessings Boutique in New Albany, said, “We’ve been a lot slower than normal, but we’re still doing online orders and selling through Facebook.”
Hancock said she is very ready for things to get back to normal, adding that she thinks it could possibly be in a week or two.
“I miss all my customers,” Hancock said.
Gazette reporter David Johnson contributed to this story.