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Sarnia takes more steps to adjust to financial impact of pandemic

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Troy Shantz

Sarnia has made additional moves to help balance its books during the pandemic.

Council has partially reinstated bus fares, slashed all but essential staff travel and training, and postponed renovations and dog new licensing software.

CAO Chris Carter said the latest mitigation measures would add almost $200,000 to the bottom line. They follow earlier moves that cut $1.7 million from the operating budget.

“Our goal is just to — and again I don’t have a crystal ball— be in a sound financial position at the end of COVID so we don’t have to necessarily draw on reserves,” he told last week’s council meeting.

Fares on Sarnia Transit buses will begin again on June 15, but with the normal $3 fare reduced to $1.50 while the emergency orders remain in place.

Passengers are expected to pay each time they board and no transfers will be issued to minimize physical interaction. For more, visit https://www.sarnia.ca/transit-updates/

The impact of an earlier cut is now evident at parks and municipal green spaces, with complaints coming in about unmown grass and dandelions going to seed.

Seasonal and summer students who would have done that work were among the 164 positions that went unfilled this year.

“We had made some difficult decisions,” Carter said. “We know that some of the service levels may not be as high as they were in previous years. Instead of grass getting cut twice a week, maybe it’s only once a week.”

Sarnia is also proceeding with a 4% municipal accommodation tax on Sarnia hotels, motels and short-term rental providers such as Airbnb.

Coun. Bill Dennis, a staunch opponent of the MAT tax, was the only councillor opposed. Mayor Bradley reminded Dennis the tax is charged to visitors, not Sarnia businesses.

To help with the economic recovery, the city is waiving an $84 fee on restaurant and other business owners that want to temporarily expand onto public property with patios and other uses.

Permit applications and reviews will continue to be done digitally, and public meetings will continue online.


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