/AH assesses COVID costs so far 

AH assesses COVID costs so far 

By Chad Ingram

After associated gains and losses have been balanced, the COVID-19 pandemic has so far left the Township of Algonquin Highlands a deficit of more than $35,000 and it remains unclear what the total financial impact of
the crisis will be for the municipality.
Councillors received a report on the township’s COVID-19-related costs from treasurer Jean Hughes during an online Aug. 13 meeting.
The pandemic has meant revenue losses in some areas – while camping was still prohibited, the township lost revenue in its parks, rec and trails department, for example – while there have been savings in other areas due to lack of travel, etc.
While camping had been restricted in Ontario throughout much of the spring amid the crisis, a boom in reservations of the camping sites along the township’s Haliburton Highlands Water Trails has actually left the township in a position where it is up over last year on those revenues. An Aug. 13 report from the parks, rec and trails director showed that while water trails revenue to date in 2019 had been just more than $242,000, to date in 2020, despite a provincial lockdown in the earlier stages of the pandemic, revenues were more than $244,000. While revenues for the water trails in July of 2019 were just more than $60,000, for July of 2020, they were more than $95,000, an increase of 59 per cent. “Because everybody’s staying in Ontario, those increases have hugely offset the losses from the Dorset tower and so forth,” Hughes said. The tower, a popular tourist destination, along
with other township facilities including the Dorset Recreation Centre,
remain closed.
“Employee cumulative hours for tasks related to COVID-19 are not depicted on the chart as they are performed during regular business hours, but are being tracked accordingly,” a report from Hughes read. “These tasks include disinfection duties, public relations, safety and EOC [emergency operations centre] meetings and setting up of a signage and barricades as required.”
On Aug. 12, the provincial government announced the first phase of COVID-19 relief funding for Ontario municipalities, which uses a population-based formula. Haliburton County and its four, lower-tier municipalities will cumulatively receive more than $2.8 million, with Algonquin Highlands receiving $275,900. That money can be used for a variety of costs related to the pandemic, including heightened cleaning costs, the purchase of personal protective equipment, etc., but also to offset
operating and revenue losses associated with the COVID-19 crisis.  “Just in what I’ve been tracking to date, we’re already looking at $190,000 worth of in-house costs related to COVID,” Hughes told council.
“There is a reporting requirement for this [provincial] money,” said Mayor
Carol Moffatt. “ . . . That’s why it’s been important from the beginning to be tracking everything, so that if funding came, which it has just arrived, we’d be able to bill accordingly what those costs are.”
The provincial government has said there will also be a second phase of
COVID-19 relief funding for municipalities, that one to be application-based.