Williamsburg the Locality Most Vulnerable to COVID-19

Composite Local Vulnerability Index. Source: “Report on Local Vulnerability Analysis.” Click for larger image.

The City of Williamsburg is the Virginia locality most vulnerable to the stresses imposed by the COVID-19 epidemic on local governments, according to a report recently issued by Virginia’s Commission on Local Government. Other small cities — Emporia, Colonial Heights, and Norton — follow close behind on the list.

The Commission based its assessment on three sets of data. The first is the Fiscal Stress Index, which the state already maintains to measure the taxing capacity of local governments and the “effort” they expend in terms of taxes levied. Commission analysts also considered each locality’s dependence upon revenue sources most immediately impacted by the virus: local sales taxes, transient occupancy taxes on hotels, and meals taxes. Thirdly, they used an analysis of job loss vulnerability produced by Chmura Economics & Analytics based on a region’s mix of industries.

Some localities relatively low on the Fiscal Stress Index — Bath County (130th), Fredericksburg (53rd) and Charlottesville (49th) — appeared in the Top 20 list of most vulnerable localities.

It is also noteworthy that every jurisdiction in the Top 2 list of most vulnerable localities was a small or midsized city. As seen in the map below, cities are far more likely than counties to rely upon taxes on hotels and restaurants.

Click for larger image.







For the most part, localities rated as having “low” vulnerability to disruption by the COVID-19 virus are rural or exurban counties, the main exception being Fairfax County, thanks to its low Fiscal Stress ranking, below average dependence on COVID-impacted taxes, and an occupational mix less vulnerable to layoffs. The other low-vulnerability localities include the counties of Charles City, Bland, Buckingham, Northumberland, Clarke, King George, Goochland, Highland, and most insulated of all from COVID-19 risk…. Surry County.

As an aside, the Commission also examined the unrestricted fund balances of each locality. Based on FY 2018 data, eight localities were identified as being able to to sustain two or fewer months of general fund expenditures through their unrestricted fund balances. These include the cities of Petersburg, Staunton, Radford, Norfolk, Roanoke, Newport News, Martinsville, Bristol, Hopewell, Lynchburg and Colonial Heights. Petersburg, which has only recently recovered from a calamitous fiscal meltdown a few years ago, had the smallest reserves.

Hat tip: Jim Weigand


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10 responses to “Williamsburg the Locality Most Vulnerable to COVID-19

  1. If CW wasn’t BK before,…

    The bad news… Will Emporia become a speed trap again? Revenue is revenue.

  2. Unexpected bonus of this report: The tourism input to Mathews local sales taxes, transient occupancy taxes on hotels, and meals taxes have been overstated in the county’s comprehensive report for years. This report seems to reflect that in showing Mathews as having below average vulnerability. And also explains Williamsburg being the highest with its economic focus on tourism.

  3. Nancy-Greenville County, not Emporia, appreciates your disobedience of the posted speed limit. Bosun

    • I was pulled in Emporia once. The cop claimed he chased me all the way from town. I said, “I find that hard to believe since I just watched you pull a U-turn at that last intersection.”

      “Have a nice day.”

      Emporia is to Virginia what Starke was to Florida. A pack of lying cops.

      Make tha “cop”. I really only met the one.

  4. Haner. It is easy because no one goes there or cares.

    • Hey! It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it!

    • Ditto. Peter, you do understand you reveal the depth of your own inanity when you post stuff like that, right? You don’t think anybody actually cares about your opinion of the College of William and Mary, do you? Now if you meant nobody goes to the stadium or cares about football, that’s closer to the mark. 🙂 One game a year tops for us….In a dorm reshuffle I got an unwanted roommate from the team, a total jerk (but he was, to be fair, from New York City.)

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