Iron-city mayor

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki celebrates in July following the announcement that Ironman will return to the city in 2020.

Penticton’s mayor took a swipe at a neighbouring local government during an update Tuesday on the city’s finances.

John Vassilaki said the team currently in place at City Hall is the best he’s seen in his 15 years as an elected official.

“I hope the regional district will learn something from our people,” he added.

Vassilaki is one of Penticton’s four directors on the RDOS board,

Besides praising city staff, the mayor also asked residents to give those same workers a bit of leeway during the pandemic.

“Please realize they’re doing the best they can with what little they have,” he said.

In his report to council, finance manager Jim Bauer explained how a projected $3.6-million drop in revenue has been offset by a corresponding $3.6-million drop in expenses.

The biggest loss of revenue is an estimated $1.3-million cut of the action from Cascades Casino, followed by a $1.1-million hit to recreation fees.

One the expense side, the city has already laid off 88 people, resulting in a cost savings of about $1.7 million, plus halted a planned $1.2-million contribution to its asset stability reserve.

“We do recognize that although we have been able to maintain a balanced budget, it is having service impacts, and many of those impacts are visible to the public,” said Bauer.

While top-tier places like Okanagan Lake beach are still being maintained as planned, less-used parks and beaches are getting about a third less attention. The street maintenance budget has also been slashed by 28%, while the budget to fix curbs, sidewalks and boulevards has been cut by 39%. Other budget reductions include the elimination of bus-stop inspections and the water utility’s leak-detection program.

Bauer is forecasting a further $5-million drop in revenue for 2021, and will be presenting council with options to make up the shortfall at a future meeting. Suggestions may include revenue-generating opportunities and service cuts.

Council also heard Tuesday that as a result of event cancellations, staff has been able to claw back $140,000 worth of grants-in-aid a – $30,000 of it in cash and the balance in-kind – out of the total $586,000 awarded. Bauer said many groups had already paid deposits to suppliers and couldn’t get the money back.

Finally, council agreed to maintain free on-street parking downtown through Dec. 31. Bauer estimated the lost revenue at $235,000, but noted that prediction was based on a budget that was prepared prior to the pandemic.

This story has been updated. An earlier version incorrectly stated Vassilaki had left his spot on the RDOS board, when in fact he is still a director.