County staff reported the budget is on track despite the upheaval caused by COVID-19. Council received a mid-year budget update during its July 22 meeting.
The pandemic has not yet significantly hurt the municipality’s financial position, with an estimated $743,600 in potential savings.
CAO Mike Rutter stressed that although the County’s books are not faring badly, that does not mean residents are not financially hurting. The report said that will impact the 2021 budget.
“We know there are many people in our community that are really suffering as a result of the economic fallout of COVID-19,” Rutter said. “We don’t want anything we say to be misconstrued as minimizing our genuine concern for our residents. We know that there is a lot of pain out there.”
The revenue picture was steady. Although there is a projected shortfall of investment income by $30,000, that was more than offset by unbudgeted provincial grant funding. Councillor Brent Devolin noted the County’s revenues do not have something like a transit system that would be harder hit during a pandemic.
“We’re fortunate compared to some other jurisdictions,” Devolin said. “This is not at all the snapshot that they would see.”
Council opted not reopen the 2020 budget and expressed opposition to cutting back on any more projects.
“We run a fairly tight ship. We budgeted for projects that we need to do,” Warden Liz Danielsen said. “We’re trying to aim for sustainability, and I would worry about the impacts down the road if we did cancel something.”
Council expenses at issue
But councillors were concerned by their own expenses, which are projected to be on budget at $161,028, though staff highlighted a $1,800 reduction in mileage expenses.
Deputy warden Andrea Roberts said there should be more savings given the reduced number of meetings, with committee of the whole not going ahead for several months. Rutter said staff did not remove pay for those cancelled meetings.
“There was a lot of work going on relating to COVID response,” Rutter said. “We know council members were busy with that and were, in all honesty, putting in more hours than they would have had we been having a regular committee of the whole meeting.”
Coun. Carol Moffatt said though she appreciated the intent, there could have been a council discussion about reframing pay.
“I struggle with having received money for meetings I didn’t attend,” Moffatt said. “That’s a problem for me.”
Council put the matter on the agenda for a planned committee of the whole meeting in August.