By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter
The Downtown Oshawa BIA has had to temporarily lay off some staff, including its executive director, in order to adjust to the spending cap on this year’s budget recently put in place by city council.
According to BIA Board Chair Ivano Labricciosa, Executive Director Amanda MacDonald was among some of the staff that were laid off.
Because of the impacts of COVID-19 and the BIA cancelling its events for the remainder of the year, Labricciosa says what is typically a progressive, events-oriented role became “more of an admin role,” resulting in layoffs.
“Given where we were with our spending, the board had to look at costs and what we could do between now and the end of the year, so it resulted in making some staffing changes,” he adds.
City Council voted to cut the BIA’s budget at a recent special council meeting, capping the budget at $268,375. The BIA’s original budget for 2020 was $649,000.
Labricciosa says given how things were going with the pandemic in the spring, the BIA had already forecast a 25 per cent reduction in spending and having a surplus, which they took to council.
“It was recommended back to city council to rebate that before the collection of the BIA levy in June. Timing was tight, but we had the recommendation in to council,” he says. “It became clear [council] was receiving feedback from businesses and felt they needed to go back to 50 per cent so they imposed that, gave it to us and we worked with it,” he adds.
While the layoffs are temporary, Labricciosa says it depends on how things go with the COVID-19 pandemic through the rest of the year before the BIA makes any decisions.
“We’re going to look at the next quarter and Stage 2 of reopening and if we get to quarter three, we can have a look at whether COVID is going to have a bigger impact in quarter four. If it doesn’t, then we can look at bringing things back,” he says.
Looking ahead into next year, Labricciosa says while there are people on both sides of the issue, he knows there are those who want more for Oshawa’s downtown.
“There are people that want to see us do more to bring events and revitalize the downtown core. The plan we had was very good. It was what people wanted and we look forward to re-establishing that plan,” he says, noting most BIA members supported it.
“I think our majority of members would prefer we came back and revitalized the downtown core and made it a vibrant downtown Oshawa. I think our city still wants that. It was a great plan and we still think we have support for that plan again in 2021.”