City defers tax payments for homeowners, businesses to ease COVID-19 financial burden
EDMONTON -- The City of Edmonton is caught in a difficult juggling act of prioritizing public health during this pandemic, while also looking out for the financial interests of Edmontonians, local business and the city.
Currently in its second week of a state of emergency, the city has taken steps to mitigate the financial effects of COVID-19.
On Monday, the city temporarily laid off just over 2,000 non-essential employees effective April 14.
Later in the day, at the recommendation of administration, Edmonton deferred property taxes until Sept. 30, as well as Business Improvement Area Tax Levy payment penalties until at least Aug. 31. The deferrals are optional, and taxpayers are urged to make their payments on time if they can afford to in order to help the city "during these challenging times."
The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce said the city's decision to defer property tax payments will help struggling local businesses.
"We talk to business owners every day about what they need during these difficult times," said Janet Riopel, the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce's president and CEO. "While this is only one of many supports employers desperately need, deferring property taxes for a few months will make a difference for many business owners. Right now, every little bit helps."
Business Improvement Areas are parts of the city scheduled for revamp. There are 13 BIAs in Edmonton with north of 4,500 businesses.
Companies who cannot make their payments by the end of Tuesday can defer them and not face penalties.
The Downtown Business Association, one of the 13 BIAs, says it's pleased with the decision that will bring some financial stability to its business owners.
EDMONTON'S FINANCIAL IMPACT
Aside from the decisions made Monday, the city has also suspended transit fares and parking fees and closed its recreation centres.
The City of Edmonton spends approximately $440 million per month: $240 million in operations and $200 million in capital costs. At that rate, the city expects to spend its reserves in six months.
Administration has worked out budget implications for three different scenarios: the COVID-19 pandemic ending at the end of April, mid-June or mid-September.
Best case scenario, the pandemic has a net impact of $27.8 million on Edmonton. If it lasts until mid-June, the city projects to lose $61.1 million, and worst case scenario — $112.3 million.
"COVID-19 is taking a terrible toll on our city," said City of Edmonton Manager Adam Laughlin.
Administration will have updated COVID-19 financial impacts in mid-April.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson