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No request for emergency funds anticipated

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Administration presented the financial, staffing, and service level impacts that occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic at the standing committee meeting on June 9.

Revenue lost from March 15 to May 31 amounted to $363,165 and increased COVID-19 related expenses added up to $33,270. 

Budget adjustments, including personnel savings through temporary layoffs, achieved $269,010 in COVID-19 related reductions and further operational savings of $126,830 were used to offset the overall losses, stated administration’s report.

Budget reductions were achieved without accessing the emergency reserve, and CAO Emily Olsen confirmed they don’t anticipate requesting to utilize those funds.

Olsen said there are some unknown impacts and assumptions made through the creation of the report and projections, including the reopening of the recreation centre, which the provincial government announced will be allowed earlier than expected on June 12.

“We haven’t had time as administration, as a senior leadership group, to meet and discuss those impacts and how that might even impact the information we’re bringing forward tonight,” Olsen said.

Olsen added the Town is not in a position to open the doors of the recreation centre on Friday and needs adequate time to prepare the facility. 

When Coun. Tyler Waugh asked about the annual shutdown in September of the recreation centre and pool, Laura Howarth, director of community service, explained that no more shutdowns are expected in September as some of that maintenance work is being done now. These projects will take another three weeks at least to  wrap up before the recreation centre can open again, she added.

Coun. Dewly Nelson asked for clarification on when ice would be put into the recreation centre and when user groups could book ice times.

The messaging so far has been that there would be no summer ice but that decision was made in anticipation of recreation centres not being considered for reopening until phase 3 of Alberta’s relaunch, said Howarth.

“If we do want to have ice before Sept.1, that changes the information we’ve provided council tonight. Because I have to bring staff back and we have to start building ice,” Howarth said.

She explained that parks and recreation uses the same staff, which would mean pulling staff from parks and changing the plans for parks that were created during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Howarth added that this isn’t something that can’t be done.

Hinton’s Administrative Senior Leadership Team began meeting in mid-March to create the Business Continuity Plan to coordinate reductions to core services, manage financial, staffing, and safety requirements, and to determine a projection of losses and expenditures from March 13 to May 31. 

Budget adjustments prompted by cancelled programming, closed facilities, and increased cleaning and sanitization were made to areas including travel, membership and registration, training, subscriptions, advertising and promotion, and projects or events funded from the operating budget, the report said.

Prior to the announcement of Phase 2 of Alberta’s relaunch, reductions were weighed against the shortfall in revenue and increase in expenditures to mitigate impacts due to COVID-19.

Administration prepared cost mitigating strategies to offset $422,207 in additional losses anticipated from June 1 through to Aug. 31. 

The town stated that $422,752 in reductions have been identified to be applied against those losses and increased expenditures. 

Projected revenue losses come primarily from FCSS and Community Services that remain closed, and expenditures until Aug. 31 are anticipated due to cleaning supplies and materials needed to reopen municipal buildings.

Olsen also stated that tax and utility deferment may pose cash flow constraints through the summer months.

To reduce cash flow concerns, a thorough review of capital projects showed approximately $3M worth of projects that can be deferred to later in 2020 or 2021.