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COVID-19 budget projections show grimmer story for City of Edmonton

The City of Edmonton is reopening some of its spray parks and rec centres, Friday, June 19, 2020.
The City of Edmonton is reopening some of its spray parks and rec centres, Friday, June 19, 2020. Erik Beck, Global News

New numbers released Friday show the costs to the city for COVID-19 are worse than projected in the spring. That’s because some services are starting up at a fuller rate than originally thought.

The best-case scenario then was a reduction of revenue of $93.5 million. Now, the finance department is projecting a loss $150.7 million.

However, the worst-case scenarios have improved to the tune of $51 million, meaning the most the city would be out in revenue is $201 million instead of $252 million.

It could be worse. Tax-supported operations, year-to-date, are favourable by $9.1 million.

“This is mainly due to receiving a provincial grant that will be paid to organizations for COVID-19, higher gas franchise fees than expected after adjusting the budget for COVID-19 and lower facility maintenance costs due to more work being completed in-house and fewer breakdowns,” the report said.

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Read more: Union leaders confused by third round of Edmonton layoffs as rec centres allowed to reopen

However, the projected year-end variance shows a projected loss of $16.9 million. Transit is operating on a more increased schedule than first projected, where ridership and fare revenue is expected to see a slower return to normal than originally thought. That budget impact is costing the city $3 million, just for moving the schedule up to August from mid-September.

Edmonton preparing for Stage 2 reopening but the city still in dire financial situation
Edmonton preparing for Stage 2 reopening but the city still in dire financial situation

Recreation facilities were first thought to be closed until mid-September but are now reopening earlier and with a reduction from full capacity because of health guidelines. Parking ticket and fine revenues are down because of reduced enforcement, and leases and rentals are also off from defaults and rent forgiveness.

Read more: Edmonton mayor says funding situation for cities has become ‘more dire’

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Another recent council decision to increase the turf and sports field mowing and maintenance of green space is also costing an extra $1.8 million. Another $1.1 million is needed for “maintenance of roads, sidewalks, cemeteries and some city facilities,” the report said. It’ll also cost an additional $300,000 to manage garbage cans and litter in parks.

The 2021 forecast shows more red ink is on its way. There will be a range of revenue reductions “compared to the approved 2021 budget of $53.9 million to $158.9 million,” the report said. “These are largely due to reduced transit revenues, community recreation facility program and admission revenues and less than budgeted property taxes due to reduced assessment growth.”

City council will review the mid-term budget projections on Monday.