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COVID-19 has $1.3 million/month impact on city; finance and audit to look at re-jigging budget Monday

The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the city budget to the tune of $1.3 million per month, according to a statement released by the city.

As a result, the City of Prince George is preparing amendments to its 2020 budget. Council’s standing committee on finance and audit will be holding a special meeting on Monday, April 20, to consider changes to the budget and potential impacts on city operations and services, capital projects, staffing levels, property taxes, and bills for city utilities.

City staff have produced a background report that has been published on the City website as part of the meeting agenda. This report identifies the reductions to multiple revenue sources, the largest of which is the nearly $600,000 monthly reduction in revenue as a result of the closure of pools, arenas, and other civic facilities. The report also includes cost-cutting options aimed at helping to offset these losses for council’s consideration. These include deferring $25 million of capital projects.

In regards to staffing, part-time and casual shifts at facilities such as the arenas, pool, and Prince George Conference and Civic Centre are no longer being scheduled. This affects approximately 100 part-time staff. In addition, the hiring of non-essential staff has been frozen and 13 limited duration positions in Public Works are not being filled.

The Finance and Audit Committee meeting will be closed to the public as a result of Public Health Orders relating to physical distancing, but the event will be streamed live on the City website. The meeting will begin at noon. The Finance and Audit Committee is chaired by Councillor Garth Frizzell and includes Mayor Lyn Hall, Councillor Frank Everitt, and Councillor Cori Ramsay. Recommendations from the finance and audit committee will be forwarded to the city council meeting on April 27 for consideration by all members of council. Subsequently, during the May 11 council meeting, council will be able to formally adopt any changes to the city budget and the tax levy.

The meeting comes after the province’s announcement of provisions to help local governments including:

* authorizing local governments to borrow, interest-free, from their existing capital reserves to help pay for operating expenses, such as employee salaries.

* delaying provincial school tax remittances until the end of the year. This will provide significant relief to local governments facing cash flow issues.

* providing local governments greater flexibility to carry debt for an additional year.

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