The COVID fog is beginning to lift, but it has cost the city deeply. In fact, the staff is projecting a deficit of more than $10 million by year’s end.
“The potential net impact of lost revenues and costs related to operations during the COVID-19 crisis is $5.1 million to the end of July 2020 and depending on response requirements, could rise to approximately $10.1 million by year end,” staff indicated in a report earlier this week to the finance committee.
To the end of July, staff is projecting lost revenue of $6.4 million. The city’s public transit system and leisure services department took major hits.
“The estimated impact (to GOVA) to the end of July is an estimated revenue loss of $2.3 million compared to planned levels,” the report noted. “The corporation resumed fare collection June 15. As a result, revenue loss projections have decreased but reduced ridership may inhibit the corporation to meet monthly budgeted revenue targets going forward. Community development staff are reducing the impact of these lost revenues by providing a modified service.”
In leisure services, the forecasted revenue loss is about $2.7 million. This is due to lost revenue from the closure of facilities such as pools, arenas, ski hills and community halls. Most summer programming has also been cancelled.
Lost revenue from the provincial offences court amounts to $821,000 to the end of the month and from the slot machines in Chelmsford, approximately $790,000.
As the report indicated, “the 2020 deficit is primarily a result of revenue losses;” however, the city has made a number of operational changes to reduce the potential deficit. These measures include opening landfill sites; laying off part-time, seasonal and casual employees; cancelling the summer student hiring program, saving $1.7 million; resuming the collection of transit fares as of June 15 and “reducing service levels to offset lost revenue;” opening campgrounds — a decision council made on June 23 against a staff recommendation; and “limiting spending on travel, training and professional development as plans have been rendered difficult by pandemic orders.”
The city has resumed its tax schedule, which it hopes will help recoup some costs.
“With the corporation’s decision to suspend penalties and interest on all overdue tax accounts for an additional month, the lost revenue for June was approximately $285,000. This represented an accumulated total of $915,000 to June 30,” staff indicates. “This total will not increase as penalties and interest will be applied to overdue tax accounts after July 2.”
While the pandemic has had devastating impacts on the Canadian economy and job market – at its peak, about three million Canadians had lost their jobs and the national economy contracted by 8.2 per cent, the worst annual contraction on record – locally, our reliance on mining and the mining supply sector have actually helped insulate us from the worst of COVID-19.
“Most companies in the mining and mining supply and services sector managed to continue operating without laying off any staff,” the report noted. “The continued operation of the mining sector and the 300-plus firms that constitute Greater Sudbury’s mining supply and services sector may help Greater Sudbury weather the economic storm, as we are not experiencing business closures and job losses on the same scale as other parts of the country.”
That being said, Sudbury has struggled as a result of COVID-19. According to the report, the local unemployment rate in May rose 3.2 per cent from a year ago to 8.4 per cent.
“The employment rate for Ontario climbed to 10.8 per cent (an increase of 5.1 per cent), while the national rate increased to 11.5 per cent (an increase of six per cent),” the report noted.
Ed Archer, the city’s CAO, said Tom Davies Square is readying itself to open its doors once again. Effective July 13, the main floor at city hall will be accessible to the public (including the washrooms).
Tom Davies Square will be open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Available services will include the citizen service centre; planning, building and leisure services; the clerks office; the tax department; and corporate security and bylaw.
A number of proactive measures will be in place to protect the health and safety of visitors and staff, including floor decals and way-finding signage; protective screens; the need to cover up with a face mask; health screening upon entry; enhanced cleaning of washrooms and high-touch areas; and an abundance of hand sanitizer at all entrances.
Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh commended city staff for their hard work over the past few months. She said many have gone above and beyond, but she also said she was concerned about burnout.
“I am concerned about staff. At some point, there’s going to be a negative impact on work-life balance and the effectiveness of our employees to be able to continue to go that extra mile,” she said. “We’ve had three or four months of this, but this is going to be long-term and I hope people recognize there will be longer cycle times, and that 311 call won’t be returned as quickly as they’d like.”
Keeping in mind public health directives asking everyone to wear a non-surgical face mask when using public transit, Archer said the city will make some changes to its fleet. For one thing, they will add hand-sanitizing stations to all buses and will install signage reminding users about current directives.
In the meantime, staff said they continue to study the pandemic and have implemented several mitigation measures. Some of these will help reduce the year-end deficit and could offset the impacts of a second wave.
“The previous report projected a potential year-end deficit of $14 million. Projections included in this report assume that leisure services will reopen and begin to recoup user fee revenues in September 2020 based on the current status of the pandemic,” they said in the report. “While the final impact will depend on senior government regulations, recommendations by public health officials, operating decisions and local community health conditions, staff will continue to attempt to mitigate the impact.”
To minimize lineups at Tom Davies Square, residents are encouraged to continue to use online services and to make an appointment through 311 before visiting city hall. A full list of online services can be found at greatersudbury.ca/eservices.
705 674 5271 ext. 505235