Faced with a 2020 budget shortfall of at least $3 million and a desire to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Prince George City Council has confirmed that a number of City facilities will remain closed for the remainder of the year, but will open one pool and three sheets of ice to provide service to local residents.
The facilities to be re-opened are concentrated in Exhibition Park. The Prince George Aquatic Centre is targeting a re-opening on September 8 and the Kin arenas will be open for bookings by user groups as of August 17.
Council has voted to keep the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre, CN Centre, Rolling Mix Concrete Arena, Elksentre Arena, and the Four Seasons Leisure Pool closed for the rest of 2020. The reason is largely financial and is a consequence of millions of dollars in lost revenue that is an outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic. While these facilities all normally charge user fees, these fees do not cover the full cost of operating them. In fact, under COVID-related restrictions that require enhanced cleaning and limits on the size of gatherings, the subsidization level for all facilities would rise, sometimes quite dramatically. These are outlined in the Council report.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the City’s finances. Revenue losses are amounting to more than $1 million per month but the impact is being mitigated by various actions:
- Facility closures along with related lay-offs and some terminations of employment
- Delaying the filling of vacant positions
- Minimizing discretionary expenses, such as travel
Despite these actions, the City had been predicting a budget shortfall in 2020 of $3 million and more than $6 million in 2021. Both forecasts were based on the continuation of current public health orders and recommendations (outlined in phase 3 of the Province of BC’s restart plan) and continued closure of all arenas, pools, and the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre. The opening of the Kin Arenas and the Aquatic Centre will increase the budget shortfall.
Addressing the unprecedented COVID-related revenue challenges in 2020 and 2021 will require ongoing conversations involving Council and Administration in the months ahead. At its meeting last night, Council directed Administration to begin planning for 2021 by preparing budget projections based on various tax levy options: zero percent, a one percent increase, a two percent increase, and the tax increase that would allow for the funding of all City operations and services at pre-COVID levels.
The Prince George Aquatic Centre is targeting a re-opening on September 8 and the Kin arenas will be open for bookings by user groups as of August 17. The PG Conference and Civic Centre, CN Centre, Rolling Mix Concrete Arena, Elksentre Arena, and the Four Seasons Leisure Pool will remain closed for the rest of 2020.
Written and released by City of Prince George