“It goes without saying that COVID-19 has flipped our world upside down,” said Valérie Parisien, finance director for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR), as she presented the 2021 budget preliminary report during the October 14 committee of the whole council.
Parisien noted that the pandemic has proved one of the “major milestones” for finance department staff in working out details for next year’s UCPR budget. Part of the preparation involved reviewing the pandemic’s impact on the 2020 budget plans and then projecting the potential impact of COVID-19 on 2021 operations and capital works planning.
For now Parisien and her staff anticipate “minimal (new) COVID-19 expenses” as UCPR staff and operations have adapted to the demands of maintaining programs and services during the pandemic. Parisien noted that the UCPR will be able to cover new costs in 2021 because of the pandemic with surplus funds from this year’s Ontario Safe Start Up municipal grant and any new provincial and federal pandemic assistance programs for local governments.
The projected 2021 budget for the UCPR is about $140 million. The public levy portion, which is revenue from property taxes, is estimated at about $48 million. This equals almost a one per cent increase of $470,000 compared to the public levy for the 2020 UCPR budget.
For the average homeowner, with a house and property valued at $272,538, this would mean an $11 increase on the UCPR portion of the property tax bill.
All eight mayors agreed with keeping the 2021 budget tax increase at one per cent to avoid adding to the financial stress of the pandemic on local taxpayers. Parisien and her staff will review the budget figures again to find any more possible cost savings and present the revised budget during the October 28 council session for review and further comment.
The goal is to have the final budget ready for UCPR council to approve at its November 25 meeting.