Budget shortfalls at city hall are not as dire as once predicted and capital projects will move ahead, following a federal announcement this week that gas tax funds will be distributed to communities.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $2.2 billion in infrastructure funding to municipalities, including $3.8 million coming to Kamloops.
In recent weeks, as the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, the city postponed projects to be funded with that federal money and other revenue streams as it eyed $12 million worth of anticipated revenue lost due to the pandemic.
City of Kamloops finance director Kathy Humphrey said Monday’s announcement was confirmation municipalities will receive the money, after planning for the worst-case scenario.
“When we did the budget a month ago, we weren’t 100 per cent sure we were going to get the money for community works [gas tax funding],” Humphrey said. “It’s confirmation that we are going to get that money. And then, instead of two payments — usually, we get half in the spring and half in the fall — they’re just going to pay it all in the spring. The amount hasn’t changed.”
Where that money will be spent has yet to be determined. Humphrey said staff will present recommendations to council in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to take our list of all the projects that were deferred because of that funding, and also a list of projects that were deferred because of the gaming funding, and some of the other revenue shortfalls, and we will take them to council in the next couple weeks to see which projects they want to go ahead with,” Humphrey said.
“We won’t automatically assume that the projects that are tied to that funding will go ahead, but we will have some money to go ahead with some of the projects.”
Council deferred $2.3 million worth of community works-funded projects, including active transportation projects, pedestrian crossing upgrades, special crosswalk and road buildouts and pickleball expansion. Other projects deferred from other revenue sources, such as gambling funds and taxation, included streetscape improvements to Victoria Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, the second phase of McArthur Island community park, ICBC road safety improvement projects, park and trail connections and bus stop enhancements.
The gas tax funds can only be used for capital spending and have criteria for which they can be utilized.
Meanwhile, no new funding was announced by the federal government for municipalities on Tuesday. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has estimated the national need for communities to be between $10 billion and $15 billion, depending on duration of the shutdown.
— with a file from Canadian Press