Will Cornwall financially weather COVID-19 storm?

Cornwall Chief Administrative Officer Maureen Adams. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The city’s chief administrative officer doesn’t think a tax deferral program and lost revenue from closed facilities is going to throw Cornwall into a financial tailspin.

“No, I don’t think so,” Maureen Adams told Cornwall Newswatch Friday in a conference call. “We know we’re going to forego investment income. Rates are going down as well so part of the CFO’s (chief financial officer) response was also driven by the Bank of Canada’s movement to cut rates.”

Tracey Bailey told city councillors Friday, the city is projected to lose at least $200,000 through tax mitigation measures and the financial climate.

CAO Adams says the city’s $175 million budget is “pretty significant” compared to the projected losses but they will be “keeping an eye on it for the time being. I don’t think that’s going to cause ripple effects on taxes going forward.”

The CAO says money is coming from the provincial government for long term care and for paramedic response to COVID-19. Exact amounts haven’t been shared with the city. She says it won’t make up for any losses though.

Adams admits the city will be losing revenue within some of the facilities, like the Benson Center and Civic Complex, closed. But those losses may be offset by money that’s not spent this year on other city projects.

“There’s also the potential that we might have some projects that might be deferred. That might not happen this year because of what’s going on. It’s just too early to see anything concretely,” Adams told Cornwall Newswatch.

Mayor Bernadette Clement says it “seems like an age ago” when Cornwall passed its budget in February and “we saw our (fiscal) health was good.”

“We are very responsible as a city in terms of our finances, very competent. The discussion around the deferral of tax payments was really about trying to get relief for residents, smaller local businesses, that’s what we’re focusing on now,” Clement said.

“But, yes, we’re going to have to keep an eye on the long term. And, yes, this is going to have a financial impact. I think that’s clear to everyone at this point,” the mayor said. She says the coronavirus pandemic is going to affect governments at all levels.

The tax deferral passed Friday means the first two interim tax payments have been pushed six-and-a-half weeks down the road. The payment due March 31 is now due May 15 and the April 30 payment is now due June 15. The deferrals come with no interest penalty.

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