CANMORE – The Town of Canmore will receive $4.2 million in operating funding support from the federal and provincial governments to help deal with the financial effects of COVID-19.
General manager of corporate services Therese Rogers briefed council on the funding from the Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) program at its regular business meeting earlier in November.
At the beginning of the pandemic, council directed administration to create social and business support programs, as well as to keep the 2020 municipal property tax levy at 2019 levels. Council also directed administration to cut $2.7 million from the 2020 budget to offset lost revenues and costs related to the pandemic.
"As the year has progressed, it has become clear that COVID will continue to impact the Town, our residents and our visitors well into 2021," Rogers said. "This will create budget pressures, including ongoing lost revenues and increased COVID expenses.
"So far, the impact to the Town has been just over $5 million."
At the end of September, the provincial government announced the MOST program, intended to distribute federal and provincial operating funding to support municipalities in Alberta to offset increased costs and lost revenues. Under the program, Canmore is expected to receive $4.2 million.
The funding is being allocated in four areas: $1.4 million to cover general operating effects of lost revenue and increased costs; $2.5 million specifically for tourism based communities; $304,714 for transit; and $186,436 from the municipal sustainability initiative program.
"It was further recognized that communities that rely on tourism have had even more significant economic impact, so the communities of Banff, Jasper and Canmore were allocated an additional $10 million to share," Rogers said. "We believe the MOST funding will really help ease the very significant financial impacts we have seen with COVID."
Rogers made several recommendations for how to allocate the funding. That included: $1.1 million to replenish the tax stabilization reserve to replace what was used to cover COVID expenses, as well as newly established social and business support programs; $2.2 million to offset lost revenues, which would also go into the same reserve; $240,000 to the capital budget; $300,000 for additional operational expenses this year and $304,714 for transit.
"The $300,000 is intended to help fund these ongoing COVID expenses through the balance of the year," Rogers said. "As well as to address council's new priority of making outdoor spaces more accessible for residents and visitors.
"Additionally, our human resources team does need some additional support to address the work they have put aside since March, when they have really been fully consumed with COVID response."
The transfer to the capital budget would reinstate two projects cancelled earlier this year: the installation of solar panels at the Roundhouse at a cost of $130,000 and light fleet replacement at a cost of $110,000