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Essex down around $250,000 due to COVID-19

by Sylene Argent

According to the report “COVID-19 Financial Impact as of July 31, 2020,” which was discussed at the September 8 virtual Essex Council meeting, the total impact to revenue for the period ending July 31, 2020 versus the period ending July 31, 2019 is a decrease in revenue of $1,151,725. With savings in other areas, however, the total loss to date, for COVID-19 impacted revenue and expense groupings, is around $250,000, when comparing the same periods.

  “Council and administration have monitored and continue to monitor the rapidly escalating situation. Measures were introduced throughout the onset of the pandemic to ensure the health and safety of staff and residents. Additional measures attempted to provide economic relief where possible,” it states in the Report to Council, which adds the around $250,00 loss is predicted to increase on a continual basis, due to the new environment that COVID-19 has created in the community.

  The largest decrease in revenue was noticed in the Community Services Department. In 2020, there was a 48 percent decrease from the year-to-date. From January 1 to July 30, 2019, there was $1,310,565 in revenue. From January 1 to July 30, 2020, there was $685,188 in revenue.

  Due to the Provincial orders implemented because of the pandemic, the Town closed all of its recreational facilities, which impacted user-fee revenue that would typically be received through programming and rentals, the Report to Council noted.

  From April through July, the waiver of penalties and interest on property tax accounts, as a way to provide flexibility to residents as they work through the financial hardships of the pandemic, cost the Town $103,276.

  The total impact to expenses for the period ending July 31, 2020 versus the period ending July 31, 2019 is a decrease in expenses of $997,620.

  As part of that, there was a decline in contracted services. The most significant contributor in contracted services fell within the drainage division, which had completed $156,000 of work through contracted services at July 31st, 2019 versus $26,000 of work completed at July 31st, 2020, the report notes.

  Because of the pandemic, the Town’s workforce was reduced wherever possible, the report continues. Upon the closure of facilities, contract and casual aquatic and programming staff were not offered hours. In addition, the Town entered into an agreement with CUPE to allow employees to accept a voluntary layoff or leave of absence. This contributed to the overall decrease of $264,000 in salaries and wages

  There was also a significant reduction in employee training expenses, which was included in the salaries and wages total. This resulted in a cost savings of approximately $60,000, or 75 percent over 2019, the Report to Council notes.

  It notes in the report that the Town’s Finance Department has concerns for the 2021 budgeting process, due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the major expected impacts to the remaining operating year, and into 2021, include possible continued revenue declines; reduction in user fees and service charges; and continued expense increases related to additional janitorial and material supplies needed to comply with Health Unit requirements.

  Council received the report for informational purposes.

  No Councillors commented or asked questions on the report.  

  As far as the Town’s operations are concerned, Chris Nepszy, CAO, said the Town’s summer day camps, hosted with modifications due to the pandemic, have now ended.

  Beach water testing at the Colchester Harbour continues, but will end sometime in September. Earlier this year, Essex Council voted to hire its contractors, who maintain its water and sewage facilities, the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA), to test the beach water twice per week. This vote happened after the Windsor Essex County Health Unit noted it would not be testing area beaches, due to lack of resources during the pandemic.

  Nepszy noted the Harrow Arena opened the evening of Tuesday, September 8, which he said was fantastic. “The staff here have done a great job working through the protocols, the videos, the information, that we are tying to push out there for our residents and our user groups,” Nepszy said. “I look forward to that getting used, and seeing it being used.”

  He noted there have been some hiccups in arranging live, in-person Council meetings, in regards to live streaming. He said the Town is working through some technical issues in terms of making sure that it is seamless for users, delegates, and members of Council and Town administration.

  “We are very close to achieving that and I hope to come back at the next meeting with a report,” Nepszy said, adding at that point, Council can decide on what that looks like.

  Council moved to accept Nepszy’s verbal report.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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