Nelson’s municipal finances are on track despite the pandemic, says its chief financial officer.
At council’s Nov. 6 meeting, Colin McClure reported that at the end of the third quarter (Sept. 30) the City of Nelson’s revenue and expenses were within budget.
In April, the city interrupted its usual budget-making process and created a last-minute budget for 2020 that was geared to the pandemic and in expectation of a decrease of $830,000 in revenue.
That budget included a zero per cent tax increase, no wage increases except those required by collective agreements, a hiring freeze, and a number of other measures.
McClure told council that year-to-date (to Sept. 30) revenue was $41,490,025, with 23 per cent of the annual budget remaining.
Taxes have been billed and collected as expected by the pandemic due date of Sept. 30, with fewer tax penalties for late payment than the previous year, he said.
Transit revenues are 38 per cent lower than last year as a result of a drop in ridership and decreased capacity on buses. BC Transit did not charge fares for the first month of COVID-19.
There has been a $300,000 drop in revenue from parking meters, the parkade, the campground and the youth centre. However, for the third quarter, parking meter revenues are back to 80 per cent of 2019 levels, while the campground exceeded its revenue over last year’s third quarter.
There has been a drop in parking fine revenue as well as in patio rental fees, which were waived this year.
A revenue increase resulted from prime interest rates decreasing in response to the financial collapse caused by the pandemic. “The city’s bond fund has had a significant positive return through unrecognized capital gains as compared to last year and what was budgeted for 2020,” McClure said.
Hydro revenue sales are similar to last year, but with commercial revenues down and residential sales up.
McClure reported that to the end of the third quarter on Sept. 30, expenses were $26,264,365, with 29 per cent of the annual budget remaining.
Environmental health expenses are up this year, he said, because of the one-time expense of the blue recycle bins and because of extra expenses due to a pandemic-related delay in purchasing a new garbage truck.
Areas affected by cost cuts were staff training and travel, the campground and the youth centre, as well as parks maintenance, grass cutting, flowers and hanging baskets in some parks.
Transit is slightly over budget this year mainly because of the extra staff time and supplies required for pre- and post-trip bus cleaning due to COVID-19. However, McClure explained that BC Transit has waived the bus lease fees for the next six months, which will result in about $100,000 in savings.
Hydro expenses are in line with the budget but slightly higher than last year because of two major storms and added vegetation management.
McClure’s report gives a long list of capital projects large and small, including the Selous Creek water upgrade, storm sewer upgrades, the decommissioning of the Lakeside hydro substation, paving projects, the new bike route, ongoing airport repairs, and engineering design work for a proposed Hall Street pier upgrade.
“Due to the timing of invoicing, approval and payment the city appears to be under budget,” McClure’s report states. “However, it is expected that this gap will be closer to budget by year end.”