In a budget year that saw wild pandemic-related swings, the City of Charlottetown is coming out well ahead in its latest projections on the 2020-21 budget.
The city released new projections for the 2020-21 operating budget, which ends March 31, along with the budget for 2021-22, on Friday. This follows the capital budget, which was released earlier this month.
The city is now projecting a $3.4 million surplus for the current year, with operating revenue of $55.4 million.
Overall revenues for the city in 2020-21 were about what was projected, but that included a big increase in property tax revenues, from $34.9 million estimated last April to $36.2 million in Friday's projection. This is a reflection of continuing strong development in the city.
It also included far less parking revenues. For a portion of last year parking was made free to support downtown merchants, and revenues also felt the impact of large numbers of people who would normally be working in the downtown working from home instead.
A planned parking rate increase was deferred, and is now planned for this September.
Parking meter revenues, expected to be $909,000, are now forecast at just $372,000. Parking garages, expected to bring in $685,000, are now forecast to cost the city $183,000. In all it is $1.3 million off budget, eating up the extra property tax revenue.
While revenues ended up flat, the city posted considerable savings over what it expected to spend.
With no one travelling for economic development or other council business and with planned events not happening, costs fell considerably in a number of areas, allowing the city to post its surplus.
The city planned to expand its transit service this past fiscal year, but due to COVID-19 not all of the expansions were viable, the city said, so operating costs were reduced.
It was a big challenge navigating the city budget through the year, finance chair Coun. Jason Coady told journalists in the lockup.
"Staff have done a tremendous job in managing their individual budgets," said Coady.
"It was definitely a team effort."
The coming year promises to be difficult to forecast as well, said Charlottetown CAO Peter Kelly.
"This is a living document and this will change," Kelly said of the 2021-22 budget.
"Right now this is static but it won't stay that way."
The city is projecting a thin surplus of just under $5,000, which includes another big increase in property tax revenue as strong development increases.
As the city grows we have to reinvest back into city infrastructure. — Coun. Jason Coady
Revenues in 2021-22 also include rolling over the surplus from this year, for total revenue of $61 million.
Parking revenues are expected to stay down, but recover somewhat, with a total of $745,000.
Kelly said parking revenues will eventually come back to pre-pandemic levels.
"Maybe not this year, but in years thereafter it will turn around," he said.
As the city emerges from the pandemic it is bumping up spending again in economic development and transit. It will also hire two new police officers.
"As the city grows we have to reinvest back into city infrastructure," Coady said.
Overall, revenues in 2021-22 are expected to grow to $57.3 million.
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