The Township of Algonquin Highlands could face considerable revenue losses due to COVID-19, particularly in the parks, recreation and trails department, treasurer Jean Hughes will tell a May 21 council meeting.

“At present, and based on the costs to date (April 30, 2020) the cumulative loss in revenue and additional expenses equates to approximately 1.3 per cent of the existing municipal tax levy or approximately $69,105,” her report to the regular council meeting says.

She added that should the closures continue throughout the summer months, losses could easily exceed this amount.

“The duration of the COVID-19 pandemic remains unclear, but we anticipate the economy will return to some normal activities in the coming months and we will head into recovery mode,” Hughes said. “The township will have to consider its options to fund the potential budget deficit which may be offset by drawing on reserves, reducing expenditures or deferring non-essential capital projects.”

The township stands to lose income from camping fees, trail permits, soccer and equipment rentals, as well as revenue from events, memberships and admissions.

Hughes also outlined expenditures incurred to date on the purchase of COVID-19 related supplies, plus costs to the township for overtime hours and self-isolation hours directly related to the pandemic.

Hughes said employee cumulative hours for tasks related to COVID-19 are not depicted on the chart she provided to council as they are performed during regular business hours, but are being tracked accordingly.

“These tasks include disinfection duties, public relations, health and safety meetings, EOC meetings, peer-to-peer meetings, virtual meeting setup and training, and setting up of signage and barricades as required for provincial and municipal closures,” she said.

She added in her report that other potential sources of lost revenue include: a drop in fire permits and inspections; licenses, permits and compliance reports; lease and fuel sales at the airport; tipping fees and planning application fees.

On a positive note, she said Algonquin Highlands’ taxes receivable is reduced in comparison to previous years and they continue to receive payments for the upcoming second installment.

She said penalty and interest charges in comparison to his time last year are down approximately 16 per cent, “which means property owners are continuing to pay their taxes at this time.”

Also at the May 21 meeting, fire chief Jonathan Wilker will table a report to summarize to council the procedures followed by the Emergency Control Group at Emergency Operation Center (EOC) meetings in response to the COVID-19 emergency since this is the first meeting of council since the pandemic struck. They did meet May 14 but only to pass a bylaw allowing virtual meetings.

He will also table a report to provide council with a Health and Safety Planning and Recovery Strategy relative to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report provides a framework for recovery operations in the township.

“Implementation of this framework will require flexibility to adhere to public health guidelines and directions being implemented at the local and provincial levels of government. The township will adhere to all public health in an effort to protect the health and safety of the public and its employees,” Wilker’s report states.

See next Thursday’s Highlander for more coverage of the May 21 meeting.

Some reopenings

The township has reopened the Stanhope tennis and basketball courts and sports field, hiking trails (except the Dorset Tower trail), and all municipal boat launches.

In addition, cemeteries have reopened. Gatherings are still limited to five people. For gravesite funeral services, there can be no more than 10 people, not counting funeral staff. Physical distancing is still encouraged.

Cottage kits are not available for purchase at this time.

The building department has begun to issue building permits, effective May 19. The fire ban has been lifted. However, daytime burning remains prohibited between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Daytime burn permits remain suspended.

There’ll also be a household hazardous waste date on June 6, in the afternoon, at the Maple Lake landfill site. Residents will not be permitted to exit their vehicles. Staff will retrieve materials directly from vehicles. Place hazardous materials in a distinct and easily accessed location in your vehicle. Be sure all containers are clearly labeled with their contents and securely sealed.

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