Regina City Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon in order to address the financial impact of COVID-19.
Heading into the meeting, Mayor Michael Fougere said that the city was facing between $7.7- $20.7 million in losses, depending on when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
The City of Regina, by law, is not allowed to carry a deficit into the next year.
After a 4-hour-long meeting Wednesday, City Council decided to scrap nine capital projects around the city, that would have cost $6.4 million.
Fougere cited that some of the reasons the city decided to delay the projects were timing and social distancing.
“(COVID-19) would have an impact, certainly the timing of it, we’re late into the construction season with respect to tenders going out,” said Fougere. “The kind of work would be shutting off water, we would have to go into people’s houses. I think that is a problem for both the resident and for the workers as well.”
The Mayor added that the postponement of the projects bridges the financial gap the city has right now, saying the city is hoping for provincial and federal help as well.
After a lengthy debate on the topic, council decided not to offset costs by using reserve funds.
Fougere argued that the reason that reserve funds exist is so that the city can use them in an emergency situation.
“If there ever was an emergency, this is an emergency.”
“We owe it to our residents to look at every possible opportunity to find savings, and not put pressure on taxpayers at all,” said Fougere. “We are not going to have a tax increase, both commercially or for residential taxes, but I think we should look for greater relief and using reserves is a really fundamental part of that.”
Another topic on the agenda was REAL, and how to make sure they can operate through the pandemic. City Council approved an amendment that would allow REAL to access and use their reserve funds in a different way.
During discussions on which services to cut or not, City Council decided to continue with street sweeping services and the planting of flowers around the city.
The services are set to cost $700,000 in total and will be paid for by dipping into a reserve fund that has yet to be decided.
City Council said that the planting of flowers is important because residents will want to see them.
“Council believes strongly that citizens want to see, in the summertime, flowers throughout our city. We do this every year and we have a beautiful city,” said Fougere. “Having flowers around the city, I think, shows how much of a beautiful city we have and we want to make sure we use that, and we have an arrangement with Wascana Park to provide those flowers, and that’s good for the whole city.”
Within the city’s expense reduction measures, no vacant positions within the city will be filled, unless the positions are essential to operations. That will save the city about an additional $4.1 million.