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Street repair, dog poop programs face delays, cuts as Vancouver grapples with cost of pandemic
VANCOUVER -- Some street repair, curb repair and even a program to redivert dog poop from the trash are among the services that will be affected as the City of Vancouver cuts back to deal with the pandemic’s fiscal toll.
But those cuts to basic services across the board are giving the city breathing room as it scrambles to make up for tens of millions in lost revenue, said city councillor Pete Fry.
“A lot of these cuts underscore the dire situation we’re finding ourselves in as a city,” Fry said.
The bottom line: that a financial meltdown that was suggested to be as large as half a billion dollars could be avoided, he said.
City staff are using a budget projecting only $111 million shortfall as their starting point that was contemplated last month, when Vancouver temporarily laid off some 1,800 people.
Now, expected revenues are up by about $16 million as parking revenue comes back, according to a city report. Expenses are projected to be down some $44 million. And the city will dip into its reserves to the tune of $52 million to cover the rest.
“It’s not as dire as that. That’s a good news story. We’re seeing where we can save some money,” Fry said.
The city staff report is not clear on how much can be saved by program, or how much each program would be affected. Among those listed for delay or cancellation included Sunday hours
at some libraries, some swimming lessons, and a service review for the Carnegie Library and the Gathering Place.
Proposals to cut the Mayor’s Overdose Task Force amid an overdose crisis that’s gotten worse during the pandemic prompted a spirited debate, as did a proposal to cut back on anti-racism rograms while hate crimes have reached new heights.
Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung said there was one item that should be on the chopping block: $339,000 to hire three new staff, including a social media co-ordinator at the office of city manager Sadhu Johnston.
“I didn’t support that in the original budget and I am not supporting that now,” said Kirby-Yung.
“We don’t need to be adding to the city manager’s office costs right now, in tough fiscal times.”
Kirby-Yung also said that the report before council only looks at operating expenses, and that the capital budget, which includes projects like the Granville Street redesign, also needs to be explored.
But Fry cautioned against pulling the plug on the redesign.
“We know that work is happening now,” Fry said. “We can’t abandon it halfway through.”