How did the District of Mission use its provincial COVID cash last year? The majority of it replaced one department’s revenue shortfalls.
Just over $2 million of the nearly $5 million COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant has been spent, with $1.3 million subsidizing the parks, recreation and culture department’s loss in program revenue, according to a report to council on April 6.
“Should COVID continue through 2021, or even 2022, we would have reduced expenditures with not having program staff on, plus we would have reduced revenue, and the COVID money would cover that difference,” said Doug Stewart, director of finance.
“Should things get better, should we be able to hire people, should programs be able to start. The funding is already in place.”
This year, the parks department ran a deficit of over $400,000, the largest of any department, according to the report. Stewart said it usually adds around $2.5 million to municipal coffers.
The provincial grant has, in fact, allowed the District’s departments to come out of 2020 with an accumulated surplus of $3.1 million, according to a year-end financial report to council.
The second biggest financial hole being plugged by is the loss of gaming revenue from the closed casino, which the District supplanted with $519,000.
That revenue helps the municipality maintain its grants to non-profit organizations providing services for the community, according to Mike Younie, the district’s chief administrative officer (CAO).
“We have our established grant programs that we’ve had for many years, and those have remained intact,” Younie said.
Other areas of interest were $100,000 being allocated towards increased sick time for staff, over $50,000 spent on facility re-openings and operations, replacing nearly $42,000 lost from leasing out municipal buildings and $8,600 being spent on computer expenses and upgrades.
|How the district used its COVID grant, according to an April 6 report to council|
The April 6 report came with a staff recommendation to grant the CAO the authority to allocate up to $25,000 for a specific departmental requests, up to a maximum of $250,000 for the next calendar year.
Council voted unanimously in favour.
The CAO, along with the director of finance, will now be able to consider, at their discretion, any request to ensure it meets the provincial criteria.
The change will allow staff to be “able to respond timely as opposed to having to come to council with a particular report for a $5,000 request, particularly when we’re sitting on $2.8 million in the bank,” Stewart said during his report to council.
These requests have primarily allowed staff to do their jobs remotely, and equipped them with video equipment to allow them to carry on from home, according to Stewart.
Younie said he doesn’t expect to get requests anywhere near $25,000.
At the start of 2021, there was $2,883,449 left of the $5 million grant. The report states a similar financial forecast for 2021, as revenue losses and increased expenses continue.