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Tri-Cities feeling financial impact of pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on revenues and costs in the Tri-Cities. But the municipalities have yet to announce any layoffs
Shoreline trail
A city of Port Moody worker erects a physical distancing reminder along Shoreline Trail. As yet, none of the Tri-Cities has announced any layoffs of civic employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tri-Cities have yet to make any decisions on laying off city workers, even as other municipalities begin cutting their payrolls.

Port Moody city manager Tim Savoie told The Tri-City News the city is “currently evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on our existing programs and services,” adding decisions about staffing levels will be made by April 18.

Thursday, the city of Surrey laid off more than 2,000 municipal workers — most of them in auxiliary roles. Vancouver also announced a temporary layoff of 1,500 employees and Delta cut 500 staff.

Savoie said the city’s response to the pandemic is having an impact on its budget.

“The most obvious costs are dealing directly with an unplanned and unbudgeted pandemic,” he said, adding costs include setting up the city’s emergency operations centre, enhanced cleaning procedures, acquisition of supplies, planning, enforcement and the creation of signage for closure and physical distancing reminders.

Savoie said the city is also losing revenue because of the cancellation of programs as well as facility rentals.

He added all of those new pressures will have to be considered in further deliberations of the 2020 budget. Tuesday, council’s finance committee will review a recommended draft budget that projects a 3.62% tax increase, with services maintained at 2019 levels. The city must have its 2020 budget finalized by May 15.

Savoie said while capital projects in Port Moody are proceeding normally for now, all new projects will be evaluated “for any new risks that should be considered.” He added that could result in delays or postponements to some projects.

In Coquitlam, general manager of finance, technology and police services, Michelle Hunt, said while the city’s budget for this year was already passed last December, it will have to evaluate the impact of lost revenues and added expenses, like additional technology to facilitate staff working from home, additional cleaning supplies and frequency at city facilities, as well as the acquisition of personal protective equipment for essential service workers.

Hunt said the closure of the Hard Rock Casino will also put a dent into gaming revenues the city uses to help pay for capital projects and the Spirit Grant program.

Public input on Port Coquitlam's 2020 budget that anticipates a .48% property tax increase wil be considered by that city's finance committee on Tuesday.

with files from Janis Cleugh and Gary McKenna