City of Cambridge extends financial supports; provides financial and capital project updates

Posted on Tuesday May 19, 2020

Cambridge, Ontario. May 19…  Cambridge City Council has approved extending short-term economic relief measures to support residents and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City will continue waiving penalties and interest on property taxes and utility bills for the month of June 2020. These short-term measures were originally introduced on March 25, 2020.

In addition, City Council approved additional relief and support for residents and businesses including:

  • Development of an application-based property tax deferral program to extend the 2020 final property tax due dates by 60 days for residents and businesses who qualify.  This program is intended to give residents and businesses extra time to pay their final tax bills, if needed.
  • Suspension of collection activities for water utility accounts in arrears until August 31, 2020.
  • Waiving of any penalties, interest and collection activities on City property leases through to August 31, 2020.
  • Waiving temporary sign permit fees until December 31, 2020 to aid businesses in their promotion efforts during the recovery phase.

This approach is consistent across area municipalities and will provide a total of 90 days of relief related to property tax and utility bills for any residents and businesses who need it. This timeframe also aligns with other provincial and federal relief programs. In total, these measures represent $1.2 million in direct, unbudgeted support by the City of Cambridge.

The City continues to support the local business community through a variety of programs during the pandemic, and will provide an updated Economic Response Plan in the coming weeks. 

Financial Overview

During the Council meeting, Sheryl Ayres, Chief Financial Officer, gave an update on the City’s financial situation. Extended closures and postponement of programs and services, combined with relief measures, have created significant financial pressure on the City.

As a result, on April 12, the City temporarily laid off 360 contract and temporary employees, and delayed hiring summer staff. Further, on April 16, Council approved a proposed cost containment plan to help control costs and offset lost revenues due to COVID-19. Due to these measures, the City is currently forecasting a deficit of about $500,000 for 2020.

Cambridge City Council, along with the other area Councils, will continue to advocate at the provincial and federal level for emergency funding.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a financial impact across all sectors and the City has not been immune,” said Mayor Kathryn McGarry.  “We have been committed to offering assistance to residents experiencing financial strain while at the same time making changes to our service levels and cancelling programs. Through a responsible and prudent cost containment strategy and staffing cuts, we have managed to find savings and move the deficit to a more manageable level. However, additional funding at the provincial and federal levels is necessary to prevent a deficit and to optimize service levels.”

Capital Budget Update

Yogesh Shah, Director of Asset Management and Project Management Office, also reported to Council on the result of the review and re-prioritization of all capital projects in light of the pandemic and its impact on operations, staff and financial resources.

As a result of the review, eight capital projects will be cancelled and 24 capital projects will be deferred until the fall of 2020 or next year.  Projects moving forward include:

  • Construction on 15 city streets will continue as planned.
  • Farmers’ Market renovations; improvements at Witmer Park; design for Preston Auditorium expansion;  site preparation for the Cambridge Recreation Complex; as well, design for the Fountain Street soccer facility will continue.
  • The Region of Waterloo is continuing with reconstruction of King Street, Fountain Street, Dundas Street, Franklin Blvd and South Boundary Road.
  • Development initiatives such as projects supporting the North Cambridge Business Park are proceeding.

These capital projects represent an investment of approximately $80 million which is vital to maintain our infrastructure, support economic recovery, and future industrial and residential development.

During the meeting, Council voted that design work on Riverside Dam, with the exception of a sediment survey, be suspended until the fall.

To learn more and for the full reports, visit www.cambridge.ca/COVID19.

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Primary media contact

Susanne Hiller
Director of Communications
City of Cambridge

hillers@cambridge.ca