CORNWALL, Ontario – During a special meeting on Wednesday, April 29, Cornwall City Council learned about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having on the city’s finances.
Cornwall’s Chief Financial Officer, Tracey Bailey, explained that despite 3,000 property owners requesting property tax deferrals, and income deficits in other departments, like Transit and Parks & Recreation, the City was currently looking at an overall operating deficit of approximately $522,000.
Despite the deficit, the City is not planning to layoff any full-time employees.
“They are cautiously optimistic,” Councillor Claude McIntosh said of City administration. “At least I can say that the deficit is not as big as I thought it was going to be.”
Through deferring tax payments for property owners, the City is missing out on $4.5 million in revenue currently, but some of that has been offset by savings found in lower fuel costs, and a $107,000 surplus in savings from part-time salaries. Some part-time workers have been laid off, such as school crossing guards, and while the City does plan to hire some summer students, McIntosh said that it is possible that they would not hire their usual number.
“There was disbelief from the Councillors,” said Councillor Elaine MacDonald. “We were able to redeploy people.”
MacDonald credits the City’s strong financial position going into the pandemic for Cornwall being able to weather the storm.
With uncertainties around how long the pandemic, and the following financial recovery will take to run their course, Bailey warned that some projects may have to be delayed, and departments re-evaluated.
“The duration of the current circumstances is unknown. Currently, the ongoing financial challenges relate to frontline staffing, Recreation programming revenue, Transit revenue, and Tourism (MAT),” reads Bailey’s report. “In the months ahead, Administration will bring a report to Council outlining operational savings and the possible deferral of capital projects in order to balance the City’s budget.”