Penticton opting to save much of provincial COVID restart package for a rainy day

City saving COVID relief

Penticton city council has opted to put aside much of the $4.7 million provincial COVID Safe Restart Grant it received, citing hesitancy to spend it all too soon in light of the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic. 

At a meeting Wednesday, council voted to use $963,000 to replenish funds taken from the financial stabilization reserve, which was used to offset a planned 2.9 per cent tax hike in 2020 that was cancelled. 

$1.3 million will go directly toward the 2021 budget, and the remaining $2.4 million sit in a reserve fund. 

“There may be things that evolve or come to light over the next period of time that council determines is useful to whether it’s the city, the community, or specific organizations within the community that have been extremely hard hit,” general manager of finance and administration Jim Bauer said when explaining the recommendation.

“Some of those needs have yet to be identified or crystallized.”

Council agreed with the plan, especially returning the nearly $1 million to the reserve fund. 

"Those reserves are there for a purpose. Our reserves are intended that God forbid the world falls apart, as possibly it’s doing now, that we need to be able to maintain for a certain number of months,” Sentes said.

Coun. Campbell Watt made the suggestion of forming a public advisory committee for the reserve fund so that citizens can weigh in on how that $2.4 million will be spent. 

"This puts the public in the position to have the say. The full effects clearly might not be recognized for years, but I think it would be great to have a community group to help with the direction when needed," Watt said.

His fellow councillors agreed, and the committee will be created at a future date. 

Council made the decisions at the tail end of the 2021 budget deliberations, which concluded Wednesday morning ahead of schedule. 

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