Kamloops councillors cut budget increase in response to pandemic - InfoNews

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Kamloops councillors cut budget increase in response to pandemic

April 21, 2020 - 5:47 PM

The City of Kamloops is cutting some projects and digging deep to find savings to get through the pandemic response, but there's not much relief for taxpayers.

After today's belt tightening, the best Kamloops residents can get is a slight reduction in how much their property tax increase will be — down from a 2.97 per cent increase to 2.2 per cent. 

Municipalities across the province are feeling a pinch because the pandemic response came right at tax time, making their tax revenue uncertain. Kamloops councillors opted to make budget cuts in certain areas to guard against the potential shortfall from unpaid or late tax payments. 

"Essentially what we did was we took a hybrid approach, we cut a little bit of everything whether it be capital projects or service levels, or future projects," said Councillor Mike O'Reilly. "Instead of doing a hard cut on just one area."

Councillors moved to defer up to $755,000 worth of items expected in 2020, including an Asset Management Reserve increase of $550,000, one of two new RCMP municipal employee full-time positions $42,750, a new arborist position $47,250, a transit expansion for the fall $82,000 and new service agreement funding of $33,000. 

Some projects also being deferred include the Hillside Stadium track replacement, the McArthur Island Community Park Project (Phase 2) and Downtown streetscape improvement (Victoria Street between 5 and 6 Avenues).

Projects that will go ahead include the Canada Games Pool infrastructure improvements, the turf portion of the Hillside Stadium, the Westsyde Pool and various road and drainage projects. 

Councillors also approved $3.69 million in operational cuts through September, which includes $2.7 million in wages (layoffs, reduced hours), $750,000 in wages due to vacancies, $1.8 million in utilities (hydro, gas), $500,000 in personal costs (traveling, conferences), $265,000 in recreation programming, $420,000 in park maintenance and general expenses like Music in the Park and other items for $600,000. 

They were presented with two options and chose to guard against the "worst-case scenario," with revenue shortages going into September, as opposed to June.

Council will not be using reserve funds at this time to get the city through.

The next council meeting will be held April 28, 2020, at 1:30 pm in the Council Chambers with public access via electronic means.

— This story was updated at 2:14 p.m. May 6, 2020, to clarify that the budget options presented for deferral were deferred by council. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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