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Quesnel City Council has decided how it plans to spend most of its COVID-19 Restart money

The City of Quesnel has received 2 1/2 million dollars from the province overall, and 1.3 million of that will go towards addressing current revenue shortfalls and the cost of re-opening facilities.

Director of Finance Kari Bolton…

“Up to 905 thousand to replace lost casino funds in 2020-21 to be used for general capital projects.   Of course if the casino re-opens, we might not need that much.   Up to 30 thousand to cover the anticipated airport deficit in 2020, 82 thousand to cover the airport capital allocations that would have been made in 2020 if revenue was sufficient.”

Other uses will include up to 200 thousand dollars to cover an anticipated operating deficit in 2020 and 80 thousand for the Council Chamber tech project.

Council also agreed to use 200 thousand dollars to help offset service reductions and layoffs at the Quesnel and District Rec Centre.

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The Cariboo Regional District, partners with the city for sub regional recreation, will decide if it will put 200 grand in as well at a special meeting in December.

Mayor Bob Simpson suggested that Council act now, regardless of whether the CRD is on board or not…

“If our spirit and intent as partners in the North Cariboo Recreation function was to prevent layoffs, to stabilize the schedule for the rec function, and to backfill lost revenue to allow that function to come back up during this first COVID winter, then we’re committed to 200 thousand dollars regardless.”

Councillor Scott Elliott agreed…

“I feel the Rec Centre is extremely important for our community. I think people need to have a little bit of normal out there and be able to go to the pool and the Rec Centre in general.”

This COVID-19 Restart money from the province is to support local governments as they deal with increased operating costs and lower revenue due to COVID-19.

Eligible costs, according to Director Bolton, included addressing revenue shortfalls, facility re-opening and operating costs, emergency planning and response costs, bylaw enforcement and protective services, computer and electronic technology costs, and services for vulnerable persons.

City Manager Byron Johnson noted that it could not be used to create a rainy day fund or to create tax relief specifically with the idea of just relieving taxes.

As for what City Council will do with the rest of the COVID Restart money, about one million dollars worth, that will be discussed further at the Financial Sustainability and Audit Committee level as part of the 2020-21 budget process, before coming back to Council with a recommendation.

Without this money from the government, Bolton said it would have likely resulted in an estimated 3.5 percent tax increase next year to make up for all of the lost revenue, and potentially even higher to cover the needed capital projects that no longer have casino funding.

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