Covid-19 & Impacts to the City

Like me, you are probably overwhelmed with all of the Covid-19 information coming at you, the constant press conferences, advice to exercise physical distancing, to self-isolate, to watch for symptoms. 

I can’t begin to summarize all of the advice, given how quickly things change day to day but I strongly encourage you to stay informed, stay home and keep physically distanced so that we can keep ourselves and our communities as safe as possible.  I’ve included a list at the end of this blog with some links to important resources but please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions.

I want to take some time to outline the challenges that Edmonton City Council is currently facing.  

As your Councillor, I have many competing priorities as we deal with the Covid 19 pandemic: 

  1. Minimize City expenses, your property taxes and utility bills as much as possible in very financially challenging circumstances;
  2. Treat our hard working City employees with compassion and consideration;
  3. Position Edmonton for swift recovery when the pandemic is behind us.

As a starting point, note that the City of Edmonton cannot run a deficit.  This is a legal limitation: we cannot spend more cash than we take in. The City can borrow money, but typically we borrow through the province, and the province only allows the city to borrow for capital projects.    

The City will allow property taxes and utility bills to be deferred for 3 months without penalty, has eliminated transit fees, and closed city facilities like rec centres.

These measures help citizens with their cash flow, but hurt the City’s cash flow.  Typically the City gets a lot of cash from property taxes in June. Without that cash, we won’t have enough money to pay our bills until that tax money rolls in later in the year. 

As a result, we have to minimize our expenses.  That’s why, earlier this week, layoff notices were issued to 1,600 City employees and over 400 library employees.  The City will “top up” the income of laid off employees to approximately 75% of their typical income for up to 16 weeks, a measure that does not eliminate the impact on affected employees, but hopefully lessens it a little.

The hard news is that more layoffs are likely.  We will likely have to borrow money. We will likely have to dip into our reserves and investments.  And we may have to transfer money from capital projects to operating budgets.

All of these measures will have long term effects on City finances. Therefore, if you can afford to pay your taxes and utilities - please do so.  Leave the deferrals for those that really need them.  

City Council will be discussing our financial situation later this month, on April 15.  I’ll continue to update you as important decisions are made.

Like you, I feel the weight of these circumstances.  No matter what, we will all be affected by this.

But there is no other place I would rather be than in Edmonton.  This City is resilient. We have a culture, an ethic of supporting each other in tough times.  Earlier this year I wrote about how our City came together to support those affected by the crash of Flight 752 in Iran, and about how we cared for our most vulnerable citizens during the extreme cold weather in January.  This is what we do in crisis: we come together, and come out the other end stronger and more unified.

Now comes a different test.  And I am confident that like we always do, we will come together to find the very best solutions for our communities.  We will take care of ourselves and each other. We will make sure our family, friends and neighbours have what they need.  We will keep our kids learning and will lead by example. We will support our impacted businesses and those hit with the economic repercussions of this pandemic.

We will be resilient through the challenges and find ways to support each other.  I have no doubt that we will continue moving forward and that our city, province and this great country will remain the greatest place to be, to work and raise a family.

There are difficult days ahead of us but we are not alone.  We are in this together, and together we will persevere.

Tim

 

For more information, please see below for resources: