Coronavirus: City of Kawartha Lakes layoffs, facility closures help to offset revenue loss

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The City of Kawartha Lakes is projecting a $3.2 million shortfall in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic. As Mark Giunta reports, the municipality is finding some immediate relief through layoffs and facility closures – May 27, 2020

The City of Kawartha Lakes is dealing with a projected revenue hit of approximately $3.2 million in 2020 directly from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

One way it’s combating the crisis is through the reduction of services due to provincial emergency orders and the staffing cuts it needed to make because of those orders.

In April, the municipality laid off more than 200 part-time and seasonal staff and paused its summer hiring process, which chief administrative officer Ron Taylor estimates saved approximately $150,000 biweekly or roughly $300,000 per month.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — City of Kawartha Lakes projects $3.2M revenue loss in 2020 due to pandemic

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“That is partially where we’re cutting things. The other is non-essential spending areas throughout our operating budgets,” said Taylor. “We’re also seeing savings in operating expenses because we have facilities closed, so utilities and fuel and things of that nature. All combined, we’re looking a reduction in the budget for certain timelines of about $3 million.”

Taylor stressed that the municipality isn’t going to offset the losses “solely off the backs” of its employees and that it plans to recall them at some point.

“We appreciate we’re an employer; these are people and families, and as we start to bring services back online that were suspended, we will be bringing those staff and recalling them quite proactively,” he said. “It’s not the sole savings we’re doing in the immediate term, it’s directly correlated with the services we’re delivering and how we’re doing it.”

At Tuesday’s virtual council session, Taylor brought up a possible $3-million surplus from the 2019 budget and how it may be used down the line in the recovery process.

On Wednesday, he clarified the surplus is also a projection and the municipality needs to stay the course on its operational budget trimming to make up the lost revenue.

“I’m recommending in the immediate term that we put it away like we do with other efficiencies and put it into a reserve until we are more clear on how our recovery efforts as a municipality and a community will be,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for council to accelerate recovery and response.  We’re not going to recommend we apply it to the immediate response efforts.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus — Several businesses in the City of Kawartha Lakes adapt to survive

Mayor Andy Letham agreed and said the possible surplus and the projected revenue loss need to be treated as two separate entities.

“One is a surplus from last year, and we’re focusing on making up the deficits from this year as revenues within this year’s operating budget,” he said.

“If it (the surplus) came in as zero, we would still be working hard this year to make up that deficit. The goal is to come out even and pretend the surplus isn’t even there. Once we know what the final amount is, and when we do have it, we can look at how to factor it into 2021 and going forward.

“We’re not going be done with some of the issues in 2021, either. I think it’s prudent for council to put it aside and have the discussion later on. One is 2019 and one is 2020, and let’s focus on 2020 and deal with it later on,” Letham added.

Meanwhile, Letham told reporters on the weekly media briefing he was going to meet with the municipality’s emergency operations centre on Wednesday to discuss the “pros and cons” of potentially dropping the local state of emergency on or after June 2.

“We won’t do it before June 2. We won’t do it before that and I just want try and get some feedback and then we want to make a decision going into the weekend and see from there,” Letham said.

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The economic recovery task force, which is going to look at recovery for all business sectors in the municipality, will start meeting on June 2 to discuss results of an online business survey and appoint members of the community to represent the sectors.

“We’ll put a game plan together on who will work in what areas with working groups and put a plan in place from there with some of the information and feedback we’ve received,” said Letham, who is part of the task force.

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