City expects to lose $2.1-million in 2021 if COVID-19 trends continue

City of Prince Albert. -- Herald file photo.

The City of Prince Albert expects to lose roughly $2.1-million in 2021 due to COVID-19—a $300,000 increase over the roughly $1.8-million lost in 2020.

Cheryl Tkachuk, Prince Albert’s financial services director, listed the estimates in a report included in Monday’s executive committee meeting agenda package.

The report says social distancing guidelines have significantly altered how the City provides public services, which can result in revenue losses and increased costs.

The City received roughly $4.4-million in emergency funding through the Municipal Economic Enhancement Program (MEEP) and Safe Restart Program (SRP). Roughly $2.5-million is left after covering the 2020 loss.

Tkachuk wrote that she expects little in the way of extra funding over the next year.

“The remaining funds of $2.558-million will be required in 2021, and potentially 2022, to cover the financial impact that will be experienced as the pandemic continues for an unknown period of time,” she wrote.

“The operating budget continues to be thoroughly reviewed and expenditures have been reduced such as travel, education and supplies, however, this will not be enough to offset the additional costs incurred due to COVID-19.”

The estimated $1.8-million loss in 2020 was roughly $354,000 more than originally expected when Tkachuk last updated council on Nov. 30. That’s due to higher than expected revenue losses from parking meter fees and tickets, and lower than expected savings in staffing costs in the Community Services Department.

The City saved slightly more than expected in operating costs, but that wasn’t enough to offset the other two developments.

So far the City has not cancelled or postponed any existing contracts or agreements due to COVID-19. This includes janitorial services, sponsorship and lease agreements, and operating agreements with Community Clubs.

Tkachuk wrote that tax revenues were received in a timely manner, with only 50 taxpayers applying for extensions due to financial hardships brought on by COVID-19. However, bad debt is expected to increase by $150,000 due to unpaid utility bills from 2020. Tkachuk wrote that city officials continue their attempts to collect on those unpaid bills.

Tkachuk’s report is one of 12 on the agenda for Monday’s executive committee meeting. There are also five delegations schedule to speak to council, including a Statistics Canada representative, who plans to update council on their plans for the 2021 census. The meeting also includes a 12 item consent agenda.

Start time is 4 p.m. at City Hall. Social distancing guidelines and public health orders are still in force.