Roanoke leaders host virtual coronavirus briefing, discuss revenue projections


UPDATE 3:05 P.M.: With businesses closed and household spending limited, the city of Roanoke is revising its revenue projections and making cuts where it can.

The revelation came in response to a question by WFXR News during a virtual press briefing with city leaders Thursday afternoon.

City Manager Bob Cowell said the city has reserves, but the use of reserve funds must be limited “otherwise we jeopardize some of our credit rating for the money we are borrowing going forward.”

The city’s revenue was ahead of schedule before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown the city’s non-essential businesses, including Valley View Mall, but Cowell said the city is taking action to prepare for a tighter budget once revenue projections are complete.

“What we are doing is obviously scaling back to the extent that’s practical,” including canceling capital projects that were to be paid with cash.

The city has two different reserves, one to satisfy lending requirements from creditors for long-term capital projects and one the city can more readily tap on a rainy day or in a crisis. The latter will not impact the city’s credit rating, but it is required to be replenished within three years and right now, the fund has just $3.5 million. While it may seem like a lot, the funds can be quickly spent when responding to a crisis or simply covering payroll for the city’s hundreds of workers.

Cowell said the city has about 200 employees working from home and everyone else reports to a their normal work locations around the city. The reason, he said, is because much of the city’s employees work in roles that cannot telework like police, fire, EMS, and trash pickup.

Vice Mayor Joe Cobb said trash pickup would continue on a normal schedule at this time, though he urged citizens to maintain social distance even when filing a police report. To file a non-emergency report, he said residents should call (540) 853-2400 extension 1.

Cobb said the city planning department was also working remote handling permits and other tasks.

Mayor Sherman Lea said the city would hold only virtual city council meetings though video conferencing for the duration of Gov. Ralph Northam’s order banning gatherings of 10 or more people. For citizens who want to participate in a public meeting, Lea said to email questions and public comments to

Lea, Cobb, and Cowell also told citizens to stay up to date on the city’s response to coronavirus by logging onto

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Mayor Sherman Lea and Vice Mayor Joe Cobb of Roanoke will host a virtual press conference Thursday at 2 p.m. The two will discuss the city’s efforts to combat coronavirus.

Watch it LIVE here on and the WFXR News app.

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