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Prince Albert, Sask., projects $750K loss due to coronavirus pandemic

Prince Albert, Sask., Mayor Greg Dionne said there are still a lot of unknowns as the city struggled under a major loss in revenue due to the pandemic. File / Global News

The City of Prince Albert says the coronavirus pandemic is significantly affecting its bottom line, with a projected loss of $750,000 for 2020.

However, the mayor of the northern Saskatchewan city said there are still a lot of unknowns.

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“We still have risks associated with cash flow as property taxes are deferred and we know businesses are suffering and some may close permanently,” Greg Dionne said.

“Administration took steps early in the process to provide detailed financial analysis. We know where we’ve been hit the hardest, which positions us well to manage the issue and respond where we can.”

Some of the lost revenue is due to the closure of recreational facilities.

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City manager Jim Toye said no dates have been set to reopen those facilities, as that falls under Phases 4 and 5 of the province’s reopening plan.

He said city staff assumed the facilities would remain closed for the rest of the year in making their financial forecasts, with the exception of Cooke Municipal Golf Course.

“There are many factors that are unknown, and we are committed to doing a full analysis that takes into account not just financial considerations, but the needs of our community,” Toye said Friday.

“This has been the priority all along. We are taking this one day at a time, just like everyone else, and will make announcements as we learn more.”

READ MORE: Closed for public health safety, loss of Saskatchewan recreation spaces felt by families

He did say tennis and pickleball courts are open, and that staff are looking at the feasibility of opening the field house fitness centre under Phase 3.

What has not been factored into the city’s budget is the provincial government’s financial support for municipalities.

Toye said further savings are being explored.

“It’s such a fluid situation. It’s important that we stay on top of the numbers and continue to re-evaluate the city’s financial position,” he said.

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“The pandemic has certainly affected the city financially and we are working hard to navigate through these challenges to provide city council with current data that is relevant to the decisions they are facing.”

The city said a number of steps have been taken to offset revenue loss, including cutting back on transit service, laying off staff and freezing non-essential spending.

Dionne said there is a need to balance the losses against needed services and economic stimulus.

“Citizens rely on us for a variety of core services,” he said.

“We had to scale back staffing slightly in some areas but for the most part residents can expect to see near normal service levels as the spring and summer construction season approaches.”

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He said more than $24 million in capital spending will go ahead.

“We have a $65-million deficit in underground pipes alone and each year we chip away at it. This work needs to proceed,” Dionne said.

“In this year in particular, we have a role to play in keeping people working and doing what we can to provide economic stimulus through construction and capital projects.”

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