Council sets course to mitigate impact of pandemic on City - Council sets course to mitigate impact of pandemic on City
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null Council sets course to mitigate impact of pandemic on City
May 21, 2020 -
At a special meeting last night, Council approved several measures aimed at mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the City of Kingston’s financial and staffing resources.
Informing Council’s conversation was a 41-page report prepared by staff that provided an overview of steps City departments have taken to ensure that essential services safely continue during the pandemic. The report also detailed how staff might proceed with meeting strategic priorities, set by Council.
“At this time, it’s essential to take stock of our ability to meet commitments on a timeline set under very different circumstances,” says CAO Lanie Hurdle, underlining that staffing resources and finances have been impacted by COVID-19.
During the pandemic, City staff have taken on special duties, such as working with community partners to establish food security programs and emergency shelters. These projects are in addition to managing daily operations in an evolving situation, as well as carrying out strategic initiatives and other Council motions.
Then, there’s the financial toll.
The report stated that if City closures and the cancellation of non-essential programs continue, Council and residents can anticipate a shortfall of $4 million by the end of August.
The CAO has used her delegated authority to better position the City for a financial recovery. This has included freezing all non-union salaries for 2020 with the cancellation of performance-based increases, and issuing a shortage of work notice to 55 full-time union and non-union employees.
Departments also continue to compile and update estimates related to loss of revenues, additional costs, savings and provincial funding.
Additional decisions to help bridge the financial gap were needed, and the CAO presented council and residents with a stark picture, but noted, “we are coming to you with solutions.”
Council approved the following staff recommendations:
- Revised timelines for Council Strategic Priorities and Council motions. While staff continue efforts to achieve the 105 initiatives outlined in Council’s Strategic Plan, some of these projects are being impacted by pressures on staff time and the inability to host in-person public engagements. Note: City staff who specialize in public engagement are currently finalizing a report to council that will outline options for engagement during the pandemic.
- Defer or close capital projects and return approved funding for closed projects to the respective capital reserve funds. Two projects impacted by the deferral, but still set to proceed one year later, are Confederation Basin Breakwater and the Belle Park Master Plan.
- Reduce $1.5 million of the 2020 operating budget transfer to the Municipal Capital Reserve Fund.
- Use $1.25 million of operating revenues to address the financial gap as follows: reallocate $500,000 of the 2019 operating surplus (this represents revenues raised through the use of education tax room in 2019), reduce the $400,000 budgeted transfer to the Working Fund Reserve in 2020, and utilize the education tax room as part of the 2020 final tax rates to levy an additional $350,000.
- Defer 2021 budget deliberations until early in 2021 with the final budget by-laws approved by the end of Q1 2021.
Council also passed two motions at the special meeting to help in the COVID-19 financial recovery:
- To eliminate the cost of living increase for Members of Council for 2021. This motion passed with full support.
- Support and endorse correspondence from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario to the federal and provincial governments that will request immediate financial relief to municipalities for COVID-19 – related expenses and lost revenues.
Following the meeting, CAO Hurdle noted, “We owe it to our taxpayers to do everything we can to minimize the long-term impacts of this pandemic, while working to meet council’s vision for this community.”
Keep up to date on the City’s COVID-19 safety precautions at CityofKingston.ca/COVID-19.