Kimmswick is searching for financial help.
The historic Mississippi River town’s budget has been decimated by the
COVID-19 pandemic and the associated cancellation of its annual Strawberry and Apple Butter festivals, which together bring in about $120,000 a year and make up about 80 percent of the city’s annual revenue.
As a result of the loss of revenue, the city is seeking donations, and the link to the donation page can be found at cityofkimmswick.org.
“This has been the perfect storm,” Mayor Phil Stang said “The flood (in 2019) wiped out the reserves. Then along comes COVID, and all of the businesses are shut down for a while.”
Tammy Benack, Kimmswick’s city clerk and treasurer, said she has sent out emails and written Facebook posts to alert people about the town’s financial struggle.
She said since publicizing the town’s issues, donations started coming in, and as of Monday, the city had received about $12,700.
“My heart is just overwhelmed,” Benack said. “We are getting $5 donations all the way up to $1,000 donations, and that is just touching. It is fantastic.”
Benack said the town will need at least $100,000 next fiscal year to pay its bills and meet payroll for its small staff. Kimmswick’s fiscal year runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
Benack said Kimmswick had $73,000 in its operating funds before paying bills for October. That money should allow the town to meet its financial obligations for the rest of this year.
“We have enough money to get us through Dec. 31,” she said.
Benack said Kimmswick is projected to finish the 2020 fiscal year with an estimated $33,000 in its operating funds. She said that money will transfer into the 2021 budget.
Benack said she hopes that balance, along with sales tax revenue and funds collected through donations and from T-shirts and strawberry jam will get the city through next year.
The town’s website said it “needs $200,000 to survive in 2021,” but Benack said it is possible to make it through next year with a budget of $100,000.
“We can get through with a very limited budget with nothing unexpected happening, such as a major flood,” Benack said.
Kimmswick’s budget includes $64,500 to cover the cost of salaries for Benack, the city’s only full-time employee, as well as the Public Works Director, two postal workers and the police chief, all part-time employees.
In 2019, the town was affected by flooding from the Mississippi River that closed nearby roads, forcing city officials to cancel the Strawberry Festival that year. While last year’s Apple Butter Festival was held, there was rain during one day of the event, so it brought in only about $80,000, nearly $20,000 less than usual, Ward 1 Alderwoman Connie Schmitt said.
Because of the pandemic, the city had to cancel both of its big festivals this year – the Apple Butter Festival, which was supposed to be held this coming weekend, and the Strawberry Festival, which was scheduled for June 6-7.
Kimmswick spent about $150,000 to fight floodwaters in 2019, and it is paying $1,500 a month to cover the costs of its mitigation efforts, Benack said.
And unlike in previous years, the town was not able to recoup any of those expenses with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) because the cost to repair damage caused by floodwaters throughout Jefferson County did not rise high enough for the aid.
After the 2019 flood, Jefferson County Emergency Management Director Warren Robinson said for municipalities to qualify for FEMA aid, the damage throughout the county had to total at least $826,810.74, and the county had about $400,000 in reportable damage.
Jefferson County was added to FEMA’s federal major disaster declaration list on Aug. 6, 2019. However, that only made aid available to residents and small businesses, not to municipalities.
Stang said the town does not have many expenses that are reimbursable through the $26,406,492 Jefferson County is set to receive in federal funds from Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Benack said if Kimmswick can hold its annual festivals in 2021, that money will be placed into an enterprise fund and used for the 2022 budget. She said the town would only use money generated from festivals in 2021 if there were an emergency.
“If we use those funds, it will prolong our financial issues because that would take out of the 2022 budget,” Benack said. “If a flood or something horrible happens, I would likely have to nip into that money (from festival revenue).
“To get through next year, we will keep our essential spending freeze in place for 2021, unless a miracle happens.”
Stang said Kimmswick’s viability as a city is in question, but he believes the town can survive.
Once a proposed riverboat port facility is completed in the city, that will help the city’s financial situation, he said.
The facility is expected to serve as a home base for the Delta Queen riverboat, which is being renovated in Louisiana in preparation for cruises up and down the Mississippi River and other inland waterways.
Stang said along with increasing tourism, the port facility would likely create a shipping industry in Kimmswick since visitors would need to find a way to transport their purchases from the town’s businesses back to where they live.
“We have great hopes with the Delta Queen, but the timing of that we are not sure of,” Stang said. “I still have optimism that will happen.
“I’m very optimistic that three years down the stream, we will have a lot of different things in place that will change the revenue stream.”