Dysart draws small deficit amid pandemic

By Chad Ingram

Dysart et al has accrued a small deficit amid the COVID-19 crisis a mid-year review from the municipality’s treasurer shows.
Dysart councillors received that report during their July 24 meeting which took place with councillors participating remotely via online conferencing platform Zoom and was broadcast to the public via YouTube.

The report from treasurer Barbara Swannell showed how revenues in various department areas were either up or down as a result of the pandemic and contained recommendations for deferring some projects re-budgeting them for 2021. Everything considered the report includes a projected deficit of just more than $18300 for 2020.
The biggest financial hit is at the A.J. LaRue Arena where the municipality has experienced $126000 in lost ice rental revenues. “We did not put in summer ice” Swannell said. Typically Haliburton Hockey Haven Sports Camp rents the ice throughout the summer months. “So that is a great loss” Swannell said. “We’re being optimistic that the ice will be installed during September” she said adding that any activities would need to adhere to provincial protocols including smaller groups requirements for social distancing etc. Wages and benefits costs associated with the building have increased by $18700 due to additional staff for cleaning of the facility but hydro expenses are down $25000 as well as contract service expenses by some $5000.
“It’s really a goal of council to get that up and running as soon as we can even if that means a deficit” said Mayor Andrea Roberts of the arena.

The municipality’s new welcome centre being constructed at Head Lake Park looks to be heading about $50000 over its budget of $450000. That project is being funded largely through a provincial grant of $375000 and the Haliburton Rotary Club has committed up to $75000 toward the project.
Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy  a member of committee overseeing the project said if the bulk of it wasn’t being funded through a grant it would likely have been deferred. “The committee has had a real struggle with just trying to get companies to bid on contracts never mind the best value” Kennedy said explaining in some cases there have been lone bids for certain aspects of the projects. He also noted there’s been an increase in the price of materials including a 10 per cent jump in the cost of lumber in recent months. Chief administrative officer Tamara Wilbee also noted that the building has increased in size by some 250 square feet from its original design and attributed much of the cost increase to that. The overrun is expected to be offset by an approximate $25000 decrease for staffing contract personnel and building maintenance.

Meanwhile expenses for council are down nearly $10000 since the pandemic has meant reduced travel and conference costs. The municipality is also going to see nearly $70000 more in property taxes than expected and the report contains some projects that will be deferred and re-budgeted in 2021. Sidewalk construction at the intersection of York and Highland Streets and by Haliburton Highlands Secondary School for example is being deferred until 2021 for a reduction of more than $70000.
“The province has announced COVID funding and we really don’t know what that will entail and we’ll be having our eyes and ears close to the ground” Roberts said.
“We are deferring some projects nothing very large at this point such as the sidewalks …” Roberts said. “They will be proposed going into our budget in 2021 so what you don’t do today sooner or later you’re going to have to do tomorrow and you have to be careful not to let things pile up too much. Going into our 2021 budget we’ll have to be very careful going into that budget season.”