Dysart et al is forecasting a small $18,336 deficit despite the upheaval caused by COVID-19. Staff presented a mid-year budget update to council July 28.

Despite a $461,566 decline in revenues, much of it pandemic-related, that was more than offset by a $649,997 drop in expenses.

Deputy Mayor Patrick Kennedy spoke positively about the update.

“Gives me a lot of relief as to what the impacts might be and at this point in time, I think we’re in great shape,” Kennedy said. “Hats off to the staff. Continue the hard work minimizing costs.”

A large surplus was found in the road maintenance budget due to a mild winter, comprised of savings for $167,340 for snowplowing, $73,810 for brushing, $67,500 for washouts and $70,000 for sanding. $300,000 was transferred to the development reserve due to that surplus.

But the forecast also includes the deferral of sidewalk construction at the intersection of York and Highland Streets, as well as Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, to 2021, saving $71,700.

Mayor Andrea Roberts said it was worth re-examining the budget given how much things have changed since its approval.

“This is a very different world,” she said.

Welcome Centre overruns

The Welcome Center being built by Head Lake Park is going $50,000 over its $450,000 budget, though that is mitigated by a $24,020 expense reduction for staffing, contract personnel and building maintenance.

Kennedy said COVID has created challenges for construction and the project would have likely been delayed were it not for federal grant funding totalling $375,000, which is time-sensitive. The project must be completed by March 31, 2021, for the grant, according to CAO Tamara Wilbee.

“The rising cost of materials has been crazy over the last number of weeks, if not months,” Kennedy said, adding contractors have also been reluctant to bid. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our costs down, but things are beyond our control on many of these areas.”

Wilbee added the size of the building has also increased by 250 square feet from initial design, contributing to the overrun. The project is being completely funded by the grant funding, as well as a $75,000 contribution from the Rotary Club of Haliburton. Coun. John Smith questioned whether the project could be delayed or altered given the higher cost. Kennedy replied the project manager would look to reduce or defer costs wherever possible.

Road improvements

Smith also asked about the possibility of additional road improvements through the summer, given the savings in the road maintenance budget.

“The condition of roads continues to be a primary concern across our community. Many of the lake roads are frankly in terrible condition,” Smith said.

Council agreed to have staff bring forward any further projects that could be completed promptly to the August council meeting.

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