The City of Castlegar has outlined a number of measures it’s taking to help tackle the COVID-19 crisis in the community.
In a statement, the city said it will remove property tax penalties until Aug. 31, extend payment deadlines for upcoming utility bills until July 15 and set aside $16,000 in funding for community groups providing critical services to seniors and people experiencing homelessness.
At a special meeting April 15, city council made the decision to create a revenue stabilization fund to help offset losses during the COVID-19 crisis.
Some councillors would have preferred to see the savings gained from budget cuts go towards lowering taxes. But the majority of council thought they could better help local residents and businesses by ensuring the city would be able to cover all of its obligations and be poised to get back to business as soon as possible.
The following budget cuts will be moved to the new fund:
Summer student positions ($52,776)
Accounting clerk ($39,000)
75th anniversary contribution ($17,500)
Sunfest contribution ($16,000)
Cultural societies budget increase ($22,000)
Community events ($16,000)
Operating supplies ($35,000)
Communities in Bloom ($20,000)
The city will also provide up to $10,000 to the Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce’s economic recovery task force if needed.
“Since municipal governments cannot run a deficit, council committed to doing as much as it can within the powers we have,” said Castlegar Mayor Bruno Tassone in a press release.
“We recognize times are tough, so we’re taking action and will continue to look for additional savings so we can provide financial relief for the people and businesses of Castlegar.”
During the council meeting, Councillor Florio Vassilakakis urged residents and businesses to pay their property taxes if they could.
“We are in a hard place too, we don’t want to have to go and borrow money,” said Vassilakais. “If you can pay, pay.
The city said it also plans to send a letter to the federal and provincial governments to ask for more financial support to help operate the West Kootenay Regional Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With flights suspended until April 30, the airport is already facing a number of financial challenges due to lost revenue.
With files from Betsy Kline