Pandemic forces UCPR budget revision

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on budget planning for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell.

Finance Director Valérie Parisien presented the mayors on the United Counties of Prescott-Russell council (UCPR) during their June 10 committee of the whole session with some revised figures for the 2020 UCPR budget.

“All the adjustments do not affect the tax levy,” Parisien told council, noting that all of the budget revisions totalled $19,938,300 spread across several departments.

The 2020 UCPR budget still remains at about $126 million as approved by council earlier in the year. The budget revisions involved reallocating some funds from programs and projects that are suspended or postponed to next year because of the pandemic. Other revisions require the UCPR draw on its working fund reserve to make up for the loss of revenue from provincial and federal sources, also due to the pandemic.

One of the priority revisions to the 2020 budget concerned the emergency services department, which has had to deal with increased demands as Prescott-Russell paramedics were called in to assist the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) with testing and assessment needs for long-term care facilities, along with their regular ambulance duties.

Parisien noted that emergency services needed about $541,000 added to its budget allocation. That money was transferred from the UCPR working reserve fund.

The provincial government has asked the UCPR to provide reports on the extra workload due to the pandemic for the ambulance service. Parisien noted that may mean future compensation from the province for the extra expense but she added there is no guarantee of that yet.

“We have a hunch we might get something (back),” she said, during a later phone interview, “but it’s just a hunch.”

UCPR council accepted the finance department’s 2020 budget revisions report for final approval during the June 24 regular session.