By Chad Ingram
The Township of Minden Hills is now on track to accrue a surplus of more than $1 million for 2020, councillors heard during an Oct. 29 meeting.
As previously reported, in September, finance director Lorrie Blanchard reported the township had garnered a surplus of some $920,000 for the year, more than $760,000 of that surplus coming from general operations, and more than $150,000 from the township’s water and wastewater operations. Some of that surplus came from unspent funds as some of the township’s operations were shut down during the first couple of months of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were also delayed equipment purchases, and some $320,000 worth of wages and benefits for unfilled staff positions
During last week’s meeting, Blanchard told councillors it was likely the surplus would be more than $1 million by the end of the year.
While some municipalities have seen negative financial implications at their recreational facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “We haven’t had the COVID-19 implications that other recreational facilities have had because we have not been operating,” said chief administrative officer Trisha McKibbin.
The former S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena was demolished in the spring of 2019 and the new Minden Hills arena, which is substantially completed, has yet to open. Once the facility is operational, McKibbin noted the township will have to take into consideration the budget challenges that other municipalities have been experiencing with regard to recreational facilities. Those challenges stem from the fact that while expenditures remain the same as staff still have be paid to maintain and operate recreational facilities, revenues are typically down since fewer people are permitted into facilities at one time amid COVID-19 restrictions.
Councillor Bob Carter noted that in the spring, council had decided there were a number of capital works projects it wanted to complete in 2020, mostly roads and bridge work, and had agreed it would debenture some of those project costs. Carter wondered that given the size of the anticipated surplus, how much of it could be used to offset the size of the debenture.
Blanchard said a report on that issue would be coming to councillors in November.
McKibbin said that only projects that can be realistically completed in 2021 should be included in the upcoming year’s budget.
“Having reviewed the forecast, I think this is crucial, as we build the 2021 budget, that we take a look at what projects were not complete in 2020 and ensure that in the 2021 budget, what is being put in the budget is realistic as to what can be completed, so that it’s not just a complete rollover and then an add of other projects, because we don’t want to be in the same situation next year as well,” McKibbin said.
The township also accrued a large surplus of some $900,000 for 2019, those funds sitting in its capital reserves.