The COVID-19 pandemic will hit the city’s bottom line by an estimated $9 million this year.
Since the start of the pandemic, the city has been losing about $1 million per month and, according to a report that will be on the agenda for the July 27 open meeting of council, initial estimates indicate the city could be facing a budget shortfall in 2021 of about $9 million. The report will be publicly available when the meeting agenda is posted on the city website on July 22.
During that meeting, council and staff will consider how best to overcome the city’s financial challenges and still provide as much service as possible to the community. Council will be provided with year-end budget projections and options for balancing the budget. The meeting will also address the budget implications for 2021.
The July 27 meeting will be the latest in a series of meetings through the end of the year that will be held to try to manage the financial difficulties for city operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple meetings are being held by both the Finance and Audit Committee and council to discuss strategies for closing the financial gap as well as how best to engage the public about levels of service prior to next year’s budget deliberations.
Council and staff have already taken several measures to reduce costs in the face of the pandemic, including deferring nearly $25 million in capital projects and adjusting the funding sources for capital projects to reduce the debt owing for those projects.
To date, about 130 city seasonal, part-time and full-time staff positions have been laid off, temporarily laid off, or terminated in order to address the COVID-19 financial situation.
City arenas to remain closed until further notice due to financial challenges
As a further means of addressing the ongoing financial and operational challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Prince George must keep its ice arenas closed until further notice.
At the council meeting on June 15, a report was presented that included a tentative August 4 reopening date for some arenas; unfortunately, this will now not occur.
Arena revenues have been severely impacted by the pandemic. In addition, ongoing requirements related to physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitization, and capping attendance at 50 would negatively affect arena usage and operations.
Throughout the pandemic, city staff have been in frequent contact with user groups and the indefinite closure of the arenas has been communicated to them. A further update will be provided to user groups in August.