A simple message in uncertain times. (Sarah Thomas photo)

Pandemic has Trail council re-considering budget, tax increase

Coronavirus changes forecast, city leaders deciding what changes to make in 2020

The City of Trail is assuring residents that staff and council are quietly working behind the scenes each day so they can come up with the best solution to deal with the current state of affairs.

In light of the breakneck speed of societal changes due to the coronavirus pandemic – council is re-considering decisions made for the 2020 budget, including the proposed property tax increase of six per cent.

Respecting the #stayhome advice from the Province of BC, the Trail Times did not attend Monday night council wherein certain decisions were made.

Council did consider the city’s Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw during the meeting, the Times later learned.

As well, on staff’s recommendation, municipal leaders agreed to refer the bylaw back to city administrators for a review of the 2020 budget, including the increase in the 2020 property tax levy.

“It is important that the public be made aware that the city is seriously looking at this issue and council fully understands the situation and appropriate changes will be made,” David Perehudoff, Chief Administrative Officer, told the Times.

“COVID-19 is having a considerable negative impact on the City of Trail’s finances and depending on how long this goes, there will be significant revenue losses as a result.”

With the city shutdown for two weeks and counting, revenue from parking meters and recreation fees are just two examples of significant areas where municipal income streams have already dried up.

Perehudoff estimates losses will most likely amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“As far as the 2020 budget is concerned, council recognizes that everyone in the community is being impacted by COVID-19 in one form or another, and council is encouraged with the measures being taken by senior levels of government to provide assistance,” he continued.

“It has been recognized that the city has a role to play and a robust review of the 2020 budget will now take place with a goal to significantly reduce, or eliminate, the proposed increase in property taxes for this year.”

It is unclear at this time what the revised financial plan will look like, and decisions made to reduce the tax levy in 2020 will likely result in additional longer term impacts.

“But it is clear that sacrifices need to be made more immediately as part of easing the immediate financial stress and burden on residents and businesses,” Perehudoff said.

Further, the city has laid off part-time workers at the Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre in response to the closure of all municipal facilities and it is implementing other cost-cutting measures that are available.

“We continue to assess operations daily and will make further adjustments that may be necessary, and we are transferring employees within the organization to address the most urgent needs,” said Perehudoff.

The city has not yet laid off any full-time employees but this may have to be considered depending on any further restrictions that the government may implement as part of the social distancing strategies and orders that have been implemented.

“The union has come to the table and indicated a willingness to work with the city,” he added.

“And this has made it considerably easier and more efficient to proceed with changes that often have to be made with very little notice.”

City staff expects to return the amended financial plan to council by the end of April, at which time it will be reviewed and debated before the bylaws are adopted.

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