So There’ll Be a $3.6 Million Deficit for 2020, But We’re Covered

At Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, members of city council will get their first holistic update about the City of Guelph’s corporate response to the pandemic since the last special meeting on the subject in August. Special attention will be paid to the financial bottom line, and there will indeed be a negative budget variance for the City by the end of fiscal 2020, but the good news is that it will be covered by the Safe Restart funding from upper levels of government.

In the report released Friday, the City of Guelph is projected to have a $19.5 million shortfall in revenue for 2020, plus another $4.8 million in additional expenses because of COVID-19. Much of that pressure was alleviated by $20.7 million in cost savings and service reductions the the furlough of nearly 800 employees back in the spring, but it still leaves a $3.6 million deficit for 2020.

This is where the Safe Restart money comes in. In August, it was announced that Guelph would be receiving $12 million in Phase #1 of the program, which offered emergency operating funds for municipalities from the upper levels of government, including $6.9 million for emergency operating funds, and another $5.1 million specifically for transit.

Staff is recommending the City use $5.5 million of the Safe Restart funding to patch the negative variance; $2.7 million for tax supported and $2.8 million for non-tax supported, The remaining $6.5 million will be saved for potential off sets in the first quarter of 2021.

In terms of other insights from the report…

*One business so far has taken the City up on the offer presented by a new program passed at the October council meeting, which allows businesses to be exempted from parkland dedication fees if they’re expanding to create more physical distancing, add more space for COVID screening and testing, or for new production lines to manufacture PPE or other safety equipment. Cargill Meat Solutions in the Hanlon Creek Business Park applied to create new space for employee screenings.

*The City’s economic development office will be launching a campaign to encourage people to “staycation” here in Guelph in the first quarter of next year.

*There will be no Holiday Market at the Farmers’ Market this year, nor will there be the Hanukkah menorah lighting or the Mayor’s annual Tree Lighting event this year in the interest of dissuading large public gatherings.

*However, the rink at Market Square will be open by mid-December, weather permitting.

*Bylaw stepped up its enforcement and monitoring on the weekend of Black Friday, but no infractions of public health protocols were observed, and no charges were laid.

*The City also stepped up workplace COVID precautions, and initiated screenings for all those entering City facilities. They also set up flu shot clinics for all City employees who are considered frontline and/or deliver essential community services.

*Programs like Guelph Shops, and Grow Back Better continue to be developed and refined by City staff.

There will also be a presentation from Christopher Beveridge, the  director of Health Protection at Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, who will talk to council about the issues in managing the pandemic from the perspective of public health policy.

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