St. Albert financially managing COVID-19 restrictions

·3 min read

The city's bottom line hasn't been too deeply impacted by the current COVID-19 restrictions, and St. Albert is prepared to weather the storm if the restrictions continue past four weeks, according to city officials.

During the St. Albert city council meeting on Monday, councillor got a look at what the financial impacts of the recent COVID-19 restrictions are.

St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said losses were small over the past few weeks because they had to face restrictions before, and learned how to pivot during the previous lockdown.

"It could influence our bottom line, the longer it goes on. We still haven't drained the pools and we still have ice in the indoor rinks. Every day that goes by is a lot of money in utilities," Heron said, adding the city will revisit the decision to drain the pools and melt the ice in January if restrictions continue.

By the end of 2020, the city expects to lose just $10,000 more than originally predicted due to the most recent restrictions. Diane McMordie, director of finance, said that is because the city made conservative estimates on finances due to COVID-19 and was able to save money on staffing costs.

The new COVID-19 restrictions resulted in revenue losses of $500,000 in November and December, which comes from the loss of rentals, leases and membership fees. Expense savings clock in at $245,000, which primarily came from wages of casual staff. Overall, the city lost $255,000 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

But the city also did a little bit better than forecasted in the third quarter in terms of reducing their expenses. McMordie said they had more people coming in to use recreation facilities than anticipated, which helped bump their revenue.

"So we thought we would have more casual (staff members) in and there's more vacancies than we originally forecasted. So we saved another $245,000," McMordie said.

Utility costs for recreation centres are also saving the city some money. McMordie said ice rinks are being maintained at a warmer temperature and pools are at cooler temperatures. The pools also require fewer chemicals with no people in them.

"We're basically saying the net impact of this closure with everything else is pretty negligible. So we don't anticipate it impacting our year-end position."

Looking forward to next year, the city created their 2021 budget with COVID-19 in mind, McMordie said. Staff created a "conservative" financial plan that is based on continued and gradual financial recovery of the city's operations, which will allow them to absorb unanticipated changes from COVID-19.

Revenue losses predicted for the first two weeks of January sit at $280,000, including revenue lost from not being able to rent out space, issue leases and sell memberships. However, the city will save $100,000 in casual staff wages. In the end, the city is expecting to lose $180,000 in the first two weeks of the year due to the recent COVID-19 restrictions.

"We weren't expecting these new restrictions. But ... we did already forecast that we would have way less revenue in 2021 than we would have in a normal year."

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette