Victoria council deferred over $20 million in capital projects at the Aug. 6 committee of the whole meeting, preventing a deficit for the 2020 fiscal year.
A report from the city’s chief financial officer showed an expected deficit between $12.5 to $17.5 million. Since the onset of the pandemic, the city has lost between $8 and $12.8 million in parking revenue, another $250,000 due to the closure of the Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena and another $2.3 to $2.5 million from the closure of the Victoria Conference Centre.
Council decided in April to postpone a number of projects. That decision was echoed during the Aug. 6 session, except for a motion to move forward on a new skateboard and bike skills park for Topaz Park.
The skate and bike park is expected to cost $3.8 million, although only design work would go forward this year, costing $600,000 with the rest needed mid-2021.
Mayor Lisa Helps was supportive of the move, stating that investments in infrastructure during a recession would be the “best possible thing [council] can do” because of the need to hire local people and local suppliers.
Council will also move forward on hiring two out of the five positions for the new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office.
Helps was not supportive of the move, and wanted to put hiring off until 2021. Coun. Geoff Young wanted to see a hiring freeze in some departments, while Coun. Jeremey Loveday said it was a “reasonable way forward.” Although the motion to fill the two positions passed, it’s likely there would not be anyone in place until January 2021.
Coun. Charlayne Thorton-Joe put forward a motion asking city staff to report on what work would need to be reprioritized in order to get a public washroom up and running near the Sticky Wicket. Loveday said that the pandemic has highlighted more than ever the importance of public washrooms and hygiene facilities in the city and supported Thorton-Joe’s motion.
Helps was less supportive, stating that it felt like council was asking too much of city staff, although she was “delighted” to hear the city would have a washroom installation per year for the next five years.
The motion was passed and staff will report back to council in mid-September.