VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The City of Vancouver is making non-unionized workers take unpaid days off in an effort to keep its books in the black during the pandemic.
Management and other non-unionized city employees will take one mandatory, unpaid day off every 10 business days in order to help balance the budget. The savings are equivalent to about a 10 per cent pay cut for each staff member, according to the city.
The furloughs are expected to remain in effect until Dec. 17, and contribute with other measures to an operational budget savings of approximately $7.5 million, says the city.
“These cuts have been very difficult decisions, and they are part of a range of measures we are implementing so that we are able to restart operations and support our communities as soon as possible,” city manager Sadhu Johnston wrote in a release.
“I want to reassure you that the city is financially stable; we are not facing bankruptcy. These are temporary measures taken in unusual circumstances so that we can overcome these hurdles and get through this together. We appreciate the hardship the many residents and businesses are facing and we remain concerned regarding the impacts on the City if tax payers are unable to pay their 2020 taxes.
The announcement comes the same day the province announced financial relief for municipalities struggling because of COVID-19.
.@CityofVancouver says management/non-unionized employees have to take a mandatory furlough of one unpaid day off in each 10-day pay period. This is to be in effect until Dec. 17 and, along w/other measures, is expected to result in budget savings of about $7.5M.
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) April 16, 2020
The city has already temporarily laid off 1,800 unionized staff, restricted new hiring and travel, and is reviewing the 2020 capital budget to reduce discretionary spending.
The city has also asked the provincial and federal governments for emergency funding to help cope with revenue losses that could reach a half billion dollars.
The new measures announced by the province include authorizing local governments to borrow, interest-free, from their existing capital reserves to help pay for operating expenses, such as employee salaries.
They also allow municipalities to delay provincial school tax payments until the end of the year, while providing them greater flexibility to carry debt for an additional year.
“We welcome the announcement from the province this morning, further reducing the commercial property tax rate,” says Patrice Impey, Vancouver general manager of finance, risk, and supply chain management.
“The delay of the school tax payment in particular will be a significant help for Vancouver, and we are assessing the rest of the tax measures announced today to determine what additional tools we will have at our disposal.”
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart responded Wednesday to questions about a survey commissioned by his office that outlined various scenarios should portions of residents default on 2020 property tax payments.
The survey found 25 per cent of residents will pay less than half of their property tax bill this year, while six per cent don’t plan on paying anything at all.
That would translate to a loss of $325 million for the city, Stewart said previously, combined with $189 million it is already expecting to lose in revenues from parking and other sources.
Vancouver council, at its meeting Tuesday, requested provincial support to provide operating grants to the city to fund public safety and essential services in light of a significant revenue shortfall.
City staff will be evaluating whether to recommend to council if the final property tax due date will be moved from July 3 to Sept. 2 at the next council meeting, April 28.
Stewart said Thursday he doesn’t believe the new provincial measures will be enough for the city to avoid more layoffs, and will ask council to approve a 10-per-cent reduction in his salary.