City of Powell River councillors have approved a staff recommendation dealing with COVID-19 financial implications.
At the May 27 city council meeting, councillors reviewed the recommendation from chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier, which suggested that council move forward with a gradual and prudent return to regular city service delivery levels to ensure 2020 fiscal budget year expenses do not exceed total revenue.
Council will be provided monthly expense and revenue reports, with recommendations to restrict monthly expenses to prevent exceeding actual and projected revenue.
Another measure is to obtain council direction prior to reopening Powell River Recreation Complex, which may occur after more than 85 per cent of property tax revenue is received. Further, the recommendation calls for offering, at staff’s discretion, recreation programs and services when an immediate 100 per cent cost recovery occurs.
Also recommended was operating transit services using the reduced Sunday service schedule until September, subject to discussions with BC Transit.
The recommendation calls for reinstatement of requirements for garbage tags on each bag collected at curbside.
Finally, the report called for reductions in operating expenses, capital projects and special projects, totalling close to $3.3 million.
Councillor George Doubt, chair of the finance committee, said these issues are necessary to adjust to revenue expected to be lost due to COVID-19 shutdown, and uncertainty of when the city will receive tax payments from taxpayers.
“We don’t know when residential, commercial and industrial people will pay their taxes this year and that is going to make a difference in when we can do all of the things in the budget,” said Doubt. “I’m in favour of this direction from staff and I’ll be voting in favour of it.”
Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said regarding the garbage tags, the city probably needed to allow a month’s grace period.
“It’s just a challenge to get notification out to everybody,” she added.
Leishman also wanted to make an amendment to remove an item from the defer list: the project on Marine Avenue and Alberni Street for the park at that location, with Powell River Community Forest funding of $117,340.
Doubt said items are not being deferred because of money the city is choosing not to spend. The city has not received that money yet and whatever is not deferred will be an issue to deal with when trying to balance the books, he added.
Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer also pointed to the $25,000 business façade improvement program, which has started, as well as the city hall building envelope project for $20,000. Brewer said the city had to assess the building envelope and it was tied into looking at energy efficiency.
“I’d recommend not holding off on that one much longer,” he added. “The sooner we get that done the sooner we’ll have an idea what kind of costs we might be looking at for city hall.”
The amendment carried. Council then carried the motion to accept the chief financial officer’s recommendation as amended.
In his report to council, Langenmaier stated that since the declaration of the provincial state of emergency on March 18, there have been a multitude of federal, provincial and local actions that will likely impact the financial affairs of the city. He stated that under normal circumstances, council approves spending via adoption of the five-year plan and staff works to fulfill actions set up in the plan.
However, given current circumstances, the new challenge is to provide appropriate services that ensure the city remains financially stable, he stated.