Monday, April 6, 2020

UBCM to coordinate outreach and advocacy for municipal governments in wake of COVID related financial pressures

The umbrella organization for municipalities across British Columbia is taking the lead when it comes to advocacy for municipal governments that are facing the impact of COVID-19 on their budget planning and local government operations and finances.

In an information release from Friday, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities outlined how the had reached out to a wide range of local government officials to gather information on the pressures facing municipalities in the province.

“Local governments find themselves in a double-bind. The sudden and dramatic loss of revenue is requiring us to rethink budgets to focus on core service delivery and support the provincially coordinated response to COVID-19. At the same time, we are aware of the many residents and businesses in our communities that have seen even greater losses of income and are looking for relief.” -- Sooke Mayor Maja Tait, UBCM president.

Among the areas of concern  identified by local government, the UBCM list included:

The loss of variable revenue including facility, transit, recreation, development, parking, hotel tax, airport and gaming revenue

The potential need to re-evaluate capital spending, including shelving discretionary projects or diverting funds from capital projects to operations

The decline in investment income from invested funds, and from any internal borrowing required to sustain operations; Additional costs incurred by local governments in supporting vulnerable populations, implementing provincial orders, and operating Emergency Operation Centers

Growing public and business community pressure to re-evaluate proposed or recently passed property tax increases

Increasing pressure to enact tax relief measures for residents and businesses including waiving utility penalties, deferring utility payment deadlines, and/or deferring property tax deadlines

Potential inability to meet looming financial deadlines including financial statements, annual reports, and SOFI reports

Anticipated delay in the completion of capital projects, with the concern that federal and provincial funding will be taken away if deadlines are not met

Assessing whether they should and/or could use accumulated surplus reserves and other restricted reserve funds to meet operational needs

The potential need to access Municipal Finance Authority borrowing for shortfalls in revenue. As required by legislation, local governments do not have the ability to run deficits.

The UBCM also outlined that it has engaged in discussions with the Province on the immediate and longer-term challenges for local governments and their communities.

Among those area for discussion for potential relief measures have focused on property taxes, legislated financial timelines, restrictions on reserves, capital project timelines, grants, and infrastructure stimulus funding.

The UBMC president noted how “While we are in a provincial emergency, it’s more important than ever to work closely with other orders of government to strengthen our communities,The Province is aware of the pressures that bear upon local governments and the need to ensure sustainable service delivery at this critical time.”

Last week we noted that a number of municipal governments have been reviewing their 2020 budget projections and taking some extraordinary measures, including significant layoffs as they come to terms with the financial situation that they will be facing.

A theme of concern for many communities that continued on into the weekend.

So far, there has been no indication, or public statement from the Mayor, Council or city staff for the City of Prince Rupert as to the current state of affairs for municipal government in this community.

As well the Mayor and Council has not informed the public  towards any steps or measures they may have looked at to this point to address any potential challenges ahead.

An opportunity for the City Council to weigh in on those themes in a public setting was lost eleven days ago when Prince Rupert City Council cancelled the first of two public council meetings for April, citing a "lack of business" to discuss as the reason for the scrapped public meeting.

For more notes related to Municipal issues in Prince Rupert see our archive page here.

1 comment:

  1. Reading the above article there is lots to consider in this crisis. Come on Mr. Mayor you canceled a council meeting the public has a right to know what the city's outlook is as best as can be determined. Not everybody is on Facebook. To sit and do nothing in a public forum is wrong. The council should take a stand rather then let the administration pull their strings.