URBANA — In any other year, the cities of Champaign and Urbana and the University of Illinois would be preparing for the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, Ebertfest, Moms Weekend and commencement.
Instead, they’re trying to figure out how big the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be, knocking out much of a busy spring’s worth of hotel/motel, food-and-beverage and sales taxes.
“It is still early days and we have not had much time to assess the financial impact, but it will be significant,” said Elizabeth Hannan, Urbana’s finance director. “We will continue to work to get more clarity about the revenue impact over the coming weeks.”
The sales-tax revenue collected in March won’t be received until June, and both cities extended due dates for hotel/motel and food/beverage tax payments, so it could be some time before the cities are able to measure the impact.
“With unemployment sharply increasing and the state delaying the due date for income taxes, this will also affect income tax payments that are distributed by the state to local governments,” Hannan said.
About 28 percent of Urbana’s operating-fund revenue comes from sales taxes, with 13 percent from property taxes and 12 percent from state income taxes.
In Champaign, nearly 40 percent of revenue comes from sales taxes, 25 percent from property taxes and 9 percent from state income taxes.
“The city is currently in the process of evaluating the impact of the coronavirus on the city’s financials for both the current fiscal year and the next fiscal year,” said Kay Nees, the city’s finance director. “The reduction in revenue will depend on many factors, including the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the governor’s emergency orders.”
But she expected the city to weather the storm without too much damage.
“The city maintains healthy financial reserves and adopts conservative budgeting practices so that we can absorb a temporary reduction in revenue or the need for emergency spending,” Nees said.
“We also have a wide variety of revenue sources on which we rely so that the impact of the reduction of one type of revenue source is lessened.”
She’s also waiting to see how much lost revenue will be offset by state and federal relief efforts.
“We are currently actively pursuing state and federal funding, including grants, to help offset COVID-19-related expenses and loss of revenue,” Nees said.
The UI has already started tabulating its lost revenue and increased expenses.
At Thursday’s meeting of the executive committee of the board of trustees, Chief Financial Officer Avijit Ghosh described the “significant and mounting” financial impact.
“In general, the impact is broad, significant and ongoing. We have incurred significant amount of unbudgeted expenses as we have converted academic programs to online education and remote teaching and adapted everybody to remote work,” he said.
— About $37 million for refunded room, board and other fees to students for the spring semester.
— Just over $4 million in direct costs related to the university’s response to COVID-19, not including the potential cost of additional sick and family leave required under the Families First Act.
— Around $17 million in lost revenue from canceled events and programs, not including what may have come in from NCAA events.
— Almost $13 million in lost revenue to clinics at the health science colleges in Chicago and the College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana because non-essential clinic visits are being canceled.
“This number will of course grow the longer the restrictions are in place,” Ghosh said.
The summation didn’t include the UI-Chicago Medical Center, which lost over $2 million in the first seven days after March 16 in canceled surgeries, procedures and clinic visits; $3.5 million in unanticipated lower labor costs; and $400,000 of additional supplies.
“These numbers will grow as the hospital accommodates new ICU beds and surge spaces in the weeks to come,” Ghosh said.
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Robert Barish said the Chicago hospital is treating 35 patients who have confirmed cases of COVID-19 and another 27 who may have it.
“Our intensive-care unit is almost 80 percent occupied, and we have a plan where we can surge up another 40 beds by taking down our pediatric intensive-care units and part of our OB service and as well as utilizing our anesthesia rooms,” he said.
He said one COVID-19 patient died, and 28 patients are on ventilators.
Like the cities, the UI is expecting assistance from the federal government.
The $2.2 trillion economic relief package signed last week includes $14 billion for higher education, of which $12.6 billion is allocated to colleges based on enrollment, Ghosh said.
“The Education Department is still to release final rules and allocation,” he said. “However, according to some reports, we may receive around $60 million from this allocation.”
UI-Chicago also expects to get some funding earmarked for minority-serving institutions, and the relief package included separate funds for states to support educational programming and hospitals.
Trustee Don Edwards asked if the UI is reaching out to alumni for support, and Ghosh said that is happening.
Trustee Stuart King asked if the UI is anticipating a change in funding from the state, and Ghosh said that’s a possibility, “but it’s too early to tell.”
“We’re working extremely closely with the governor’s office and various agency offices,” UI President Tim Killeen said.