The City of Port Alberni will be reviewing this year’s budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council directed staff to conduct a review of the 2020-2024 five-year financial plan during a regular meeting of council on Monday, March 30. Director of Finance Andrew McGifford admitted that “a lot has changed” since the city’s last budget meeting on March 10, as the city responds to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We need to have a review, I think, and look at what we could see as far as impacts on the financial plan,” he said.
The review will look at deferring some of the larger capital projects planned for the next five years and will also assess the impact of recreational facility closures. McGifford added that it’s important to keep some “shovel-ready” projects in the plan, in case of grant opportunities.
The city does not have the ability to defer taxes for homeowners or business owners, due July 2. That responsibility belongs to the provincial government.
“Obviously things are quite fluid right now and the province is possibly looking at different options as far as tax deferral and support for the taxpayers,” said McGifford. “At this time, we don’t have any direction from the provincial government.”
He added that the timeline is “tight” with a deadline of May 15 to set the city’s tax rates for the 2020 year.
“Ideally we’d like to have this wrapped up by the end of April,” McGifford said.
Mayor Sharie Minions agreed that the plan should be amended, given the number of job losses in the community. This is compounded by the impacts of the United Steelworkers strike, which ended in February.
“We are aware that people in our community are challenged right now and struggling financially,” Minions said. “We need to, at minimum, review our financial plan, given that everything has changed since we started this process.”
Councillor Debbie Haggard also suggested reviewing the city’s Strategic Plan in the coming months.
The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District was also scheduled to review its budget on Tuesday, March 31.