VICTORIA -- The City of Victoria is considering implementing dramatic changes to its $245-million 2020 budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says that the city is considering lowering property taxes this year to provide financial relief for residents.

The city is also considering delaying significant capital projects and deferring any hiring of new staff members until at least 2021.

Capital projects affected by the reallocation of funds would include the nearly $8-million Crystal Pool & Wellness Centre Replacement Project, a multi million-dollar improvement project for Topaz Park – which included replacing the grass with artificial turf, and general infrastructure repairs and upgrades.  

Helps noted that municipalities are legally not allowed to run a deficit, meaning that the city can not spend any more money than it takes in from taxes each year.

To work within the municipality’s current budget, the city will discuss reallocating $11-million from capital projects to allow for payment breaks for Victorians.

The reallocated funds would allow the city to extend utility bill payment due dates by up to 90 days, and allow property taxes for both residential and commercial properties to be deferred from July 1 to August 1.

“There were lots of projects that we know people were excited about… that will be deferred this year if council so decides,” said Helps. “It’s a difficult decision to make but we know it’s the right thing to do because we know you and others are really struggling right now.”

The city is also considering lowering the city’s proposed property tax increase of 3.35 per cent to provide further relief for residents.

Helps says that the reduction in taxes would impact the city’s reserve funds, which are saved for future city needs.

Victoria’s mayor says it is her personal opinion that council use reserve funds at this time, however.

“My personal feeling is, and again this is subject to council’s decision, is that reserves are for rainy days and right now it’s pouring,” she said.

Victoria city council is scheduled to discuss proposed changes to the municipality’s 2020 budget at a committee of the whole meeting Thursday.