City council looking to further slash costs, arenas to stay closed

Later this month, city council will look at further measures to respond to the budget shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also on Tuesday, the city announced its city arenas will remain closed until further notice because of the city's financial challenges.

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The city has been losing about $1 million per month since the beginning of the pandemic, and initial estimates predict a budget shortfall of $9 million in 2021, a statement issued by the city said. City council will decide what actions to take during the July 27 regular council meeting.

"During the meeting, council and staff will consider how best to overcome the city’s financial challenges and still provide as much service as possible to the community," the statement said. "Council will be provided with year-end budget projections and options for balancing the budget. The meeting will also address the budget implications for 2021"

Earlier this year, city council approved measures to reduce the financial impact of the pandemic on the city's bottom line. The city has already laid off, temporarily laid off or terminated 130 seasonal, part-time and full-time staff.

The city also deferred nearly $25 million in capital projects and reallocated funding to reduce its debt-servicing costs.

"At the council meeting on June 15, a report was presented that included a tentative August 4 reopening date for some arenas; unfortunately, this will now not occur," the city statement said. "Arena revenues have been severely impacted by the pandemic. In addition, ongoing requirements related to physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitization, and capping attendance at 50 would negatively affect arena usage and operations."

The city has informed arena user groups about the indefinite closure, and will provide them with an update on the situation in August.

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," the statement said. "The city wishes to thank user groups and the public at large for their understanding and patience during this challenging time."

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