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Town finds budgeting surplus during COVID-19

July 23, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Despite all the economic hurdles associated with COVID-19, the Town of New Tecumseth has maintained a surplus position financially.

This has been accomplished through a massive reduction in services and staff, which is slowly ramping back up.

“When we encountered COVID, we had to reduce a lot of our services that we offered to the public and the consequence was a reduction in revenue, so we knew we needed to be proactive to understand what those reductions were going to be, the size of them and how we could mitigate the lack of resources,” said Lori Bedford, General Manager of Corporate Services.

The Town has projected a $1.5 million loss in revenue this year, $1.09 million of which comes from parks and recreation and culture.

This has been offset by a $2.25 million reduction in salaries and waste waster expenses, creating an overall surplus of over approximately $750,000, Bedford noted.

“I point that out so we feel comfortable proceeding with our original budget because the impact from COVID will not effect us negatively financially,” she said.

“We’ll all be effected by COVID, probably for the rest of our lives, but the Town of New Tecumseth will be able to survive the financial consequences of COVID this year.”

In two months, New Tecumseth Council will receive a presentation of the Town’s long-term financial plan, which moves ahead with its $65 million capital budget.

The Town is currently working fluidly with $42 million in projects, $12 million of which will happen starting in September, while $5 million may not be completed by the end of 2020 as planned, due to staff still being rehired.

To date, seven per cent of the Town’s projects for this year are complete.

The due dates on property tax fees were pushed by the Town in an effort to help residents as they were caught in the middle of an economic lockdown, forcing many out of work through no fault of their own.

Fortunately, residents have been consistent with prior years in terms of their tax payments so far, however the next instalment date, July 30 will be monitored very closely.

“In the past, our residents did step up to the plate and did primarily pay their utilities and taxes as they would have under normal circumstances and so I think we should all be very grateful to the community for taking on that responsibility,” Bedford noted.

Meanwhile, services in New Tecumseth’s are returning but won’t be the same as they were prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“As we work to re-establish our services, we must do so not in the way they were being provided previously but rather to follow all new protocols and requirements as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Town CAO Blaine Parkin.

“It’s not a matter of just turning a key and unlocking the door…we have to adjust some of our operations and redeploy our resources in order to meet those public health protocols and restrictions, including limiting the number of people in our facilities at any given time,” said Parkin.

The Town is currently in Phase 1 of its reopening, which saw a majority of playgrounds open back up late last week with the exception of Riverdale Park and John W. Taylor Park in Alliston as well as Potter Park and McKnight Park in Tottenham.

“Users are reminded that our playground equipment is not sanitized and users of all our outdoor recreation amenities must follow all our public health directives,” Parkin noted.

Bookings are being taken at almost all municipally-owned sports fields and for indoor events up to 50 people and outdoor events up to 100, which is in accordance with provincial guidelines. Users of the booked spaces will also have to submit a plan on how their booking will meet all public health protocols and COVID-19 restrictions.

Looking ahead to August 4, the Town will embark on Phase 2 of its recovery plan, with more parks, recreation and culture services opening back up to the public. This includes the Museum on Boyne by appointment only, while the Town’s Recreation Centre will reopen with limited use and some revised hours. The gym portion of the centre will remain closed due to challenges associated with physical distancing, according to Parkin.

The 54Plus Seniors Centre in Alliston is set to reopen on August 4 as well, alongside the Alliston and Beeton Memorial Arenas, which will be open for floor and hall rentals. The Tottenham Community and Fitness Centre will allow bookings, drop-in use is not permitted.

“Members will need to book a time slot online or by phone,” said Parkin. “When performing physical exercise masks may be removed as required.”

Meanwhile, the Town Administration Centre and Joint Operations Centre will open back up to the public by appointment, starting August 10. Where possible, residents will continue to be encouraged to use online options to promote safety and efficiency.

“We continue to ask for our community’s patience and understanding as we work together to get through this,” Parkin noted.

“We can’t thank them enough for how understanding they’ve been and how tremendously they’ve worked together.”

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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