Climate impact disseminates Gatineau City surplus
Between the heavy snowfalls and spring floods, the once-healthy Gatineau surplus has been heavily diminished to around $225,000.
In 2018, the City was able to generate a surplus of $5.5 million, which was generated mainly from higher than expected income provided by transfer taxes and investment income, which benefited from the rise in interest rates in 2018.
The City’s finance department reported that $11.5 million worth of expenditures were directly related to this past flood, with $4.3 million being spent on salary payments during the crisis and $2.4 million having been spent on providing temporary shelter to those affected.
Estimates are that snow removal expenses for 2019 were also high due to significant snowfall coupled with many freeze and thaw periods, and a hike in salt prices. Many Quebec municipalities ran out of salt last year, pushing the price higher.
Last spring, a deficit of $3.6 million was announced by the administration. This deficit could now reach $4.4 million, should the weather not cooperate by the end of the year.
All in all, once the flood expenses and snow removal deficits are applied, the proposed municipal budget for 2020 is of $651.8 million, with a very thin $225,000 surplus. For context, without appropriation, the net surplus anticipated by the City on December 31, 2019, was estimated around $5.5 million.
“This is my seventh budget and I have never seen such a small net surplus. It really goes to show the importance of preparing a financial cushion. Of course, 2019 was an exceptional year with two climate anomalies, which really depleted our funds,” said city councillor Cedric Tessier.
When asked how the city planned to contend with another winter such as last year’s, Mr Tessier said that Gatineau has $2 million set aside for field operations which could be used to maintain a balanced budget, should the need arise.