City of Kelowna preparing to slash 2020 budget amid coronavirus pandemic

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City of Kelowna prepares to slash budget for 2020 amid COVID-19 pandemic
The City of Kelowna anticipates lower revenues following a worldwide shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. City council has asked staff to prepare a new budget for a vote April 27th. – Mar 30, 2020

With businesses shuttered and residents losing jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Kelowna anticipates revenues will plummet in 2020 and not support their proposed plan to run the city with $148 million this year.

“Local governments cannot run a deficit like higher levels of government and must continue to provide many essential services that the community relies on,” Kelowna mayor Colin Basran said.

Essential services for the population of 133,800 that must be funded by city coffers include policing, fire protection, water, roads and transportation and solid waste management.

With airport operations drastically impacted by travel restrictions and quarantine measures, the city is no longer expecting the projected revenue of $46.9 million from YLW operations, which includes $23.8 million from airport improvement fees in 2020.

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The Kelowna International Airport will reduce operations immediately to reflect current air traffic levels, and there will be minimal capital expansion at YLW this year, Basran said.

“Effective immediately, staff have been directed to reduce operating budgets through the following measures: reduce base budgets for non-essential and new spending,” the mayor said. “This includes things like professional consulting, materials and supplies, purchase and contract services along with other specific area reductions.”

The city will not fill 90 positions that are currently vacant, and 64 part-time positions have already been laid off, he said.

There’s been a hold placed on non-essential travel and training for staff, with a review being undertaken for capital projects that could be deferred, according to Basran.

The mayor was unsure as to any change that will come to the proposed property tax increase of 4.15 per cent.

Staff has been directed to retool the budget and bring a revised document to council for approval on April 27th.

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