Like most other cities across Canada, COVID-19 is having serious and unprecedented financial implications for Prince George.
Since the start of the pandemic, the city says it's been losing roughly $1 million per month and, according to a report that will be on July 27's public council meeting agenda initial, estimates also indicate a potential 2021 budget shortfall of $9 million.
The report will be publicly available when the meeting agenda is posted on the city website on July 22.
The city adds council and staff will consider a new strategy to best tackle its financial challenges while also providing as much service as possible to the community.
Prince George councillors will be provided with year-end budget projections and options for balancing the budget. The meeting is also set to address the budget implications for 2021.
The July 27 meeting will be the latest in a series of meetings through the end of the year that will be held to try to manage the financial difficulties for city operations during COVID-19.
Multiple meetings are being held by both the Finance and Audit Committee and Council to discuss strategies for closing the financial gap as well as how best to engage the public about levels of service prior to next year’s budget deliberations.
To date, the city says about 130 seasonal, part-time and full-time staff positions have been laid off, temporarily laid off, or terminated in order to address the COVID-19 financial situation.
Additionally, the city is announcing the continuing closure of its arenas until further notice due to financial challenges.
At a council meeting on June 15, a report was presented that included a tentative Aug. 4 reopening date for some arenas, but has been pushed back with no estimated date of reopening.
Arena revenues have been severely impacted by the pandemic and the city says ongoing requirements related to physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitization and capping attendance at 50 would negatively affect arena usage and operations.
Throughout the pandemic, city staff have been in frequent contact with user groups and the indefinite closure of the arenas has been communicated to them. A further update will be provided to user groups in August.