Amended Council Agenda Promises Fiscal Relief With (Maybe) a $6 Million Cost

The City Clerk’s office has released a consolidated agenda for Monday’s emergency city council meeting, which includes more details about what emergency action that city council is considering in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some local fiscal stimulus is being planned, and according to City staff, the emergency measures could come with a $4 to $6 million price tag.

“Early financial projections for the estimated lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic response measures for the period of March 18 to April 30, 2020 is in the range of $4 to $6 million,” reads the staff report prepared by the general manager of finance and treasurer Tara Baker. “Extending the application of these response measures to May 31, 2020 without any significant alterations is estimated to be an additional $2 to $4 million.”

So what are these measures? Parking permit fees will be waived for the month of April, and so will Guelph Transit fees. The City will also be offering property tax relief to businesses and residents in April, including a waiver of interest and penalties until May 1, a waiver of NSF charges to April 30, ceasing all progressive taxation activities until April 30, waiving tax statement fees related to mortgage requirements, and an option to defer monthly pre-authorized debit plans. (You will have to email tax [at] guelph.ca to take advantage of that one.)

So how will this effect the City’s solvency?

“The following financial relief recommendations reflect an assessment of the City’s immediate concerns for the community well-being, economic conditions, and the sustainability of the City’s financial health,” said the report, which added that provincial stimulus funding will forthcoming.

“The City has sufficient contingency reserves to mitigate a one-time loss in this range, however, the property tax collection timing implications of shifting cash receipts of upwards of $100 million towards the last half of 2020 is causing the greatest concern,” according to the report. “The City continues to need enough liquidity to meet its obligations to vendors and employees.”

The report also says that the Guelph community will be asked to continue normal pre-authorized debit plans wherever possible since the tax office will likely be getting a high volume of request for changes. City management will also be looking to see whether they can reschedule some expenditures in order to better work with the present fiscal reality.

In another agenda item, the wording for a motion to delegate procurement authority to Chief Administrative Officer Scott Stewart has been fine tuned with a time horizon. As outlined in the motion, the CAO will authorized to have authority “for the period of the global COVID-19 pandemic as determined by the World Health Organization or the emergency period as declared by the Province of Ontario.”

During this time period, the CAO will be allowed to take actions that may be required “to protect the property and the health, safety and welfare of the citizens and visitors to the City of Guelph while managing budgetary considerations, both revenue and expenditure.” The CAO will also have to prepare a report outlining all the actions he’s taken, the financial impact, and the costing of the emergency, after the crisis has passed.

Council will also vote on amendments to the Procedural Bylaw to allow for emergency meetings, and on select items from March’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

Mayor Cam Guthrie, the City’s executive team, and members of the Clerk’s staff will be in the council chambers in person, while several councillors will be teleconferencing in. The council chambers will be closed to members of the public, and there will be no delegations heard.

The emergency meeting begins online at 6 pm, and you can watch it on the City’s website here.

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