City administration projects budget variance to top $4.5M due to COVID-19
Other items include support for paramedics, transit operators; requesting mandatory masks in public
Thunder Bay city administration says it was more or less on track to deliver a balanced budget for the first quarter of 2020, and then, COVID-19 happened.
Administration will present its first quarter variance on Monday night, highlighting how the city was within $200,000 of being on budget for tax supported services. Rate supported items, like water, wastewater and the landfill were due to have a small positive variance, or be in the black.
However, COVID-19 has changed those figures, with rate supported items now running a deficit of $700,000 compared to projections; and will continue to lose an additional $300,000 per month that COVID-19 restrictions are in place.
Administration said at an earlier council meeting that the amount of water being used across the city has decreased substantially, which impacts revenue for both water and wastewater.
On the tax-supported side, the city projects it would have a budget shortfall of $1.1 million per month, until operations return to normal.
The city has modified many of its operations, including laying off staff, to help reduce its expenditures. Those actions have resulted in savings thus far of $1.5 million, however, those savings are offset by unexpected spending of $1.3 million because of the pandemic.
Some of the spending includes extra personal protective equipment for staff, as well as additional spending for Superior North EMS and higher costs at the city's long-term care facility.
Part of the equation is lost revenue for the city, with $1.1 million less coming in for transit, along with recreation, child care, parking and casino revenues. The Municipal Accommodation Tax is also much lower than projected.
Administration notes there are a number of things the city can do to try and keep the budget on track, as much as possible, including moving funds from the Rate Stabilization Fund, using a portion of last year's surplus to offset this year's costs, working with reduced staff, continuing a hiring freeze, and even cancelling some capital projects.
Pay increase, mandatory masks
Also at council on Monday, Coun. Kristen Oliver will bring forward a motion, asking the province to include transit operators and paramedics in a provincial initiative, giving raises to front-line workers.
The province said healthcare workers, like nurses, and some other essential workers would get a $4/hr increase, although paramedics and transit operators were left out.
As well, Coun. Aldo Ruberto will bring forward two resolutions; one to ask the provincial or federal governments to make it mandatory to wear a mask while in public, and the second to make parking free at the two downtown parkades.
On-street parking has been free for April and part of March.