That’s how Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson describes the provincial government announcement on Thursday (April 16) to support municipalities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Simpson says allowing them to delay school tax remittances that they make to the province until the end of the year, and to borrow from existing capital reserves, allows them to cover off any cash shortfalls and addresses the lag time between when they have to pay for operations and when they actually collect taxes…
“When we collect taxes in July we’re already half way through our operating year because the local government operating year is January 1st to December 31st, but our tax collection isn’t until half way through the year, so you’ve already incurred half of your expenses for that year once you start collecting the revenue for that year.”
Simpson says if communities delay collecting taxes you just further broaden that gap.
He says the combination of some timing relief and some flexibility to be able to move some money around internally will allow Council to be able to look at an alternate time frame for property taxes this year.
Simpson says there is another issue that needs to be addressed however, and that is shortfalls in revenue…
“We’re not collecting transit fees, we’re not running some of the fee based amenities at the Rec Centre and the arenas etc, we’re not getting the casino funds because the casino is closed, so moving your money around to cover shortfalls will end up catching up with you. So you’ve got two choices.
One, continue to lobby the provincial government to make up those shortfalls, or two, really adjust your operational side of your budget to make sure you can make yourself whole internally.”
Simpson says Quesnel’s plan is to make adjustments on operating costs to try and make up for the shortfalls, but document those shortfalls, and then go back to the province to get the money.
He says the Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing noted on her conference call yesterday that this was a first step, and that there is still an ongoing conversation to have with local government.