As the City of Kamloops continues to navigate financial challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is warning of a long road ahead.
“This isn’t over,” Mayor Ken Christian said.
On Tuesday, city council received yet another budget update, as it relates the pandemic, which has ravaged economies around the world and has also hit the municipality’s pocketbook.
City corporate services director Kathy Humphrey told council the net revenue loss and operating savings were slightly off from what was initially projected at the onset of the pandemic, with fewer revenues lost, but also less savings realized.
Savings at the end of June ended up at $4.9 million, not $7 million as projected. One major contributor to that was higher-than-expected gasoline usage, with workers unable to share vehicles. Utility and fuel savings were expected to be $1.8 million, but ended up at $400,000.
Some specific COVID-19-related expenses the city has had to take on include $135,000 for technology and licensing to support staff to work from home, $66,000 in personal protective equipment and safety supplies and $30,000 to transform the Valley First Lounge at Sandman Centre into new council chambers.
In addition, revenue loss was also lower than anticipated. The city had expected $7.9 million in lost revenues, but actually took a $5.6-million hit to the end of June. Continued construction in the city has helped, with $1.2 million worth of building and development permits issued, with most of that linked to the Royal Inland Hospital’s patient-care tower construction.
Transit and parking fees were also reinstated, resulting in slightly lower impacts to those revenue streams.
Humphrey told council the new projected financial figures would not result in any budgetary impacts, as they almost offset one another.
Meanwhile, Humphrey noted most of residential property taxes have been collected, which could have caused issues for city cash flow.
“The taxpayers of Kamloops have really stepped up,” Christian said.
The city delayed the late payment penalty in order to allow people experiencing financial strain more time to pay, if needed.
Meanwhile, the city is also planning to delay its annual tax sale, in which properties delinquent on property taxes for three years are sold off in an annual event. Council has agreed to delay this year’s sale to 2021. It still requires council to approve bylaw changes at a future meeting.
Council delayed myriad projects earlier this year in order to balance its budget, but has thus far not had to dip into any reserve funds during the pandemic.
Humphrey told council, however, the city is not yet clear of financial problems.
She said council must prepare for potential service cuts during budget talks in the next couple of years.
“I think there will be continued requests for support of the economic recovery in our community,” Humphrey told council,.
Christian said the situation will reverberate be for the remainder of council’s term, which ends in October 2022, when the next civic election will be held.
It is a stark contrast to the beginning of council’s term, when it had ambitious plans set out for climate action, livability projects like the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts and more.