While some other B.C. local governments are feeling the financial crunch of COVID-19, the Town of Princeton is in pretty good shape.
That’s according to Mayor Spencer Coyne and James Graham, director of finance.
“The cash flow for the municipality is really good and if we don’t have a dime coming we are still good for six months,” Graham told the Spotlight.
Currently, there is $2.5 million in Princeton’s general operating accounting and the town carries no debt.
According to Coyne, some capital projects originally included in the 2020 budget will be deferred until next year.
Sewer upgrades are likely to go ahead, as well as the installation of the bronze statue park in the downtown, as that project is already paid for, said Coyne.
A redesign of the visitor centre will be put on hold, however.
“We’re not going to jump into that right away,” Coyne said.
Other communities have seen layoffs and downsizing, in response to COVID.
The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen recently eliminated manager positions in public works and development services.
Those cuts are permanent.
RDOS CAO Bill Newell said the decision was made to address “the long term economic impact” of the virus.
Last week, the municipality of Summerland temporarily laid off 11 part-time and 12 full-time employees, while permanently axing the positions of director of development services, manager of legislative services and community development coordinator.
Coyne said the Town of Princeton is not considering layoffs at this time.
“We are going to postpone any layoffs as long as possible. We have been asked by the ministry to repurpose or reassign (employees whose workloads have slackened)…There is always plenty of work to do.”
Coyne said council is keen to protect jobs.
“These are people in our community who if they don’t work, they can’t feed their families and pay their bills.”
The town will lose revenues from government owned facilities that are now closed, said Graham, including the visitor centre, Riverside Centre and the arena.
About 30 per cent of Princeton’s dollars come from taxes. The 2020 budget includes an overall 4.6 per cent tax increase, which for the average household will mean a property tax increase of about $31, from $634 to $665.
Monday night council passed a tax bill that offers some relief regarding tax arrears. Ordinarily tax bills not paid by July 1 are subject to a 10 per cent penalty. However this year, only one per cent will be applied on July 2. A further nine percent will be charged September 30.
Water and sewer bills have been sent out, the deadline to qualify for a 10 per cent discount has been extended to June 15.
The province has already ordered a 25 per cent reduction in all commercial and industrial property taxes.
Coyne said it’s important to remind people about the importance of paying bills on time if possible and the wisdom of old-fashioned belt tightening. “People need to remember that taxes are still going to be due, whether it’s now or later, and it’s really important to pay your bills.”
He urged caution in all spending and debt acquisition. “Next year you are going to have to make that up. We don’t know what next year is going to look like. Next year might be worse.”
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