(Black Press file photo)

COLUMN: Summerland council taking stock of its finances in wake of COVID-19

Municipality must examine effect of pandemic on budget items

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down.

Besides worrying about our wellbeing and the health of our loved ones, we’re seeing businesses close, people losing their jobs, and many of us struggling to make ends meet.

The federal and provincial governments have announced financial supports for businesses and individuals and, understandably, many people want to know if local government is also able to help.

On March 9, Summerland council discussed ideas like providing a grace period for the payment of property taxes and utility bills. It was agreed that before providing any public assistance we needed to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the municipality’s own operations and revenues.

Just as households and businesses are looking at their accounts in the wake of the pandemic, council needs to take stock of its financial situation.

READ ALSO: Summerland’s proposed budget requires $16,382,355

READ ALSO: Summerland property taxes forecast to rise

One of the biggest hits will be to the recreation department’s annual revenue of $800,000, including $230,00 from arena rentals; over $100,000 from youth and adult programs and events like the Giant’s Head Run; more than $100,000 from fitness centre memberships and drop-in tickets and more than $100,000 from swimming lessons, public swimming and other aquatic programs.

While there may be some savings on the expense side, the operational costs of recreational facilities are mainly fixed.

The problem is that we’re dealing with a Socratic paradox (named after the Greek philosopher Socrates): The only thing we know is that we know nothing.

We don’t know how long the arena and the aquatic centre will remain closed. We don’t if Peach Orchard Campground, which provides $100,000 in revenue, will even open for the season.

We don’t know the impact on the many capital projects slated for this year, including a second scale at the landfill; trail repairs on the lakeshore and up Peach Orchard; new pickleball courts; a dog park; and road works on Victoria Road, Doherty Avenue/Bathville Road, and Turner Street.

Hopefully most projects can proceed as planned. Each one is important to the community, and spending on public infrastructure can help to fight a recession and get local business back to work.

However, even if projects are financially feasible, some could stall due to government orders for social distancing and self isolation.

These orders could also delay council initiatives that will require extensive public engagement, including the development of a downtown plan, designs for a recreation and health centre, and the affordable housing forum.

District staff are currently conducting a review of municipal finances and priorities and will provide recommendations for consideration at an upcoming council meeting.

While we just recently concluded our 2020 budget deliberations, council may need to re-deliberate. At that time, we’ll look to see where we can offer relief to residents and businesses as a short-term measure.

In the long-term, we’ll be dealing with a new normal. But Summerland is resilient.

Once this crisis is finally over, we’ll come together to rebuild our local economy and society, and we’ll come out the other side a rejuvenated, stronger community.

Doug Holmes is a Summerland councillor.

To report a typo, email:
news@summerlandreview.com
.



news@summerlandreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

ColumnistCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Number of Kelowna-linked COVID-19 cases grows to 159

Interior Health reported four new cases region-wide on Friday, 18 remain active

Okanagan, Creston cherry and apple farms in need of workers

The worker shortage is due to the COVID-19 restrictions on international travel

New team focuses on troublesome Kelowna properties

Recently, a property owner was handed six tickets amounting to over $2,500

Police watchdog deems Kelowna RCMP not responsible for man’s death

The man spoke to police after a car crash before leaving on foot; he was found dead six hours later

Central Okanagan adds 3,600 jobs in July: Statistics Canada

The region’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.2 percentage points to 10 per cent in July

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

‘It’s just my job’: Off-duty Peachland paramedic saves choking girl downtown Penticton

Family vacationing in Penticton assisted by off-duty paramedic, who helps save 13-year-old

Vandals target North Okanagan camper

COVID-19 ‘No camping’ warnings sprayed on local camper

Pup stolen from Vernon temporary shelter

Nicola Sanders hopes to spread the word to get Nala home to her son, the rightful owner

Evacuation alert for 43 homes near Dry Lake fire rescinded

Fire status changed to Under Control, crews remain on site patrolling and extinguishing hot spots

Most Read