Council in Brief - April Edition | 2020

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In brief, here are four items of public interest that were discussed during the April 2020 City Council meeting. The full agenda for April 15, 2020 can be accessed here and the full agenda for April 27, 2020 can be accessed here.

Please note that in line with the City of Saskatoon’s request for citizens to assist with controlling the spread of COVID-19 we encourage you to email a letter at saskatoon.ca providing comments as an alternative to attending the meeting. This meeting of City Council took place through teleconference and was recorded, as per any other City Council meeting.

COVID-19 Update - Financial Implications

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The purpose of this report was to provide a high-level estimate of the potential financial impact from the COVID-19 pandemic to the corporation of the City of Saskatoon (City) based on assumptions and using the most current information available. However, as the situation is fluid, the assumptions and forecasts included in this report could significantly change as time passes. The duration of the pandemic is uncertain and while this report focuses on the 2020 financial and operating impacts, it is very likely that there will be longer lasting impacts that go beyond the current year. The Administration will be bringing these further impacts in preparation for the review and formalization of the 2021 budgets later this year.

In assessing the financial impacts to the City’s 2020 year-end financials, three scenarios were developed in conjunction with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to allow for standardized reporting amongst Canada’s larger Cities. The three scenarios assume that the physical distancing restrictions are lifted and services reopen on June 30, 2020 (scenario 1), September 30, 2020 (scenario 2) and December 31, 2020 (scenario 3). The assumptions in the financial forecast considers the response phase such as the length and extent of restrictions/closures followed by a recovery phase that considers the rate of recovery after the restrictions are lifted and the potential date of return to
normal operations and service levels.

Impacts

Scenario 1

(June 30, 2020)

Scenario 2

(September 30, 2020)

Scenario 3

(December 31, 2020)

Net Deficit Projected to Year-End (with no action taken by the City)  - 20,227,000.00 - 32,048,000.00 - 42,959,000.00
       
Net Deficit Projected to Year-End (with action taken by the City) -10,093,000.00 -22,014,000.00 -32,925,000.00


Relief from the federal and/or provincial governments could assist in filling the gap. If relief is not provided, the City must find a way to balance the budget at year-end. As per The Cities Act, any unfunded deficit at year-end must be added onto the following year’s budget and that budget must be balanced in most cases through property taxes. The Administration proposed a strategy to deal with the year-end deficit in 2020 whereby any remaining deficit is carried over to 2021. Should there be a remaining deficit that is not offset by relief packages, the Administration recommended that City Council consider making adjustments to the 2021 operating and capital budgets. This will allow the City to play an economic stimulus role in 2020 with already budgeted capital works, and continue to work with the other orders of government on relief solutions. Any unresolved deficit not covered by the City’s own actions combined with
relief packages would be dealt with in the 2021 budget. If no other options are available, the City could consider a reduction in capital transfers to reserves as one of the major actions to offset this amount so not to add to the property tax levy. Capital investments are key to the maintenance of the City’s assets that are used to meet the core needs of citizens, and as such, careful consideration of the implementation of this approach would be undertaken to limit the negative impact to these assets.   

The Administration will continue to monitor the situation and will bring forward updates and recommendations for actions as necessary.

COVID-19 Update - City Community Response and Construction Program

Since the onset of the pandemic planning and community response to the COVID-19 crisis, over the course of the past six weeks, City Administration has been reaching out in various ways to support the community and undertaking some non-traditional activities to support the COVID-19 response. A detailed report highlights all the initiatives undertaken (at the time of writing the report), which can be found here as agenda item 10.3.1. Examples of the great work of City Administration include support for the Saskatoon Community Action Alliance Community response team, connecting and supporting the newcomer community, providing weekly "home activity bulletin" to Community Associations and Physical Distancing Ambassador Program.

The City’s 2020 capital program approved during budget deliberations totalled approximately $390 million. The impacts of the pandemic affect virtually every aspect of civic operations and as such, the Administration conducted a
comprehensive review of the 2020 capital program. The analysis looked at the length of projects, its interruption and impact to normal water service, business activity, and essential services/businesses, extent of support from operational divisions, significant risks of deferring the project and the materials and equipment required. As a result of the analysis, Administration determined that the majority of construction projects can proceed as planned, with the exception of water rehabilitation projects that have a significant direct impact on residents.

It is not recommended to deviate from the capital construction plan at this time because the review demonstrated that the majority of projects can continue as planned, with the exception of a change in the locations selected for water main renewal. Significant reductions in capital investment for asset management is not recommended because investments in renewal of civic assets is essential to sustainment of these assets, and deferring projects would only defer the financial liability to future years.

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Information is kept up to date at the following link: https://www.saskatoon.ca/city-hall/budget-finances/covid-19-response-city-finances. A synopsis of these changes can be found on this PDF.

Corporate Leisure Card

City Council approved a recommendation that a Corporate LeisureCard be established which provides a 20% discount on adult, youth or family LeisureCard admission products which will be made available for approved corporations that employ more than 25 employees and have offices located in Saskatoon.
 
Further information will be made available once the Corporate LeisureCard is available. 

Conversion Therapy

A bylaw will be drafted to prohibit conversion therapy as a business in Saskatoon. Bylaws have been drafted or are in the process of being drafted in Vancouver, Edmonton and other Alberta cities. 

Next steps include stakeholder engagement regarding the drafting of the bylaw. Furthermore, City Council will write to other orders of government expressing Saskatoon's support for tabled Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy), indicating that we intend to align our business license practices with the direction of the Federal Government on this issue once Bill C-8 is in effect.

Once the bylaw is drafted, it will come back to City Council for approval. 

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