Good news came to Town Hall in the form of an Aug. 12 letter from Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark. As part of the federal-provincial “Safe Restart Agreement” with municipalities, Pelham will receive just under $447,000 as a first round of funding to offset the various financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The federal and provincial governments have really stepped up,” CAO David Cribbs told the Voice.
Town Treasurer and Director of Corporate Services Teresa Quinlin broke down the funding as $428,500 for the municipality, plus $18,344 for transit operations.
Quinlin’s current projections peg the lost revenue to the Town of Pelham due to the pandemic at $669,336 by Dec. 31.
While the letter from Clark’s office stresses any unused funds be placed into reserve for next year, the ministry is also allowing municipalities to apply for a second round of relief funding before Oct. 30. Quinlin said that Pelham will take them up on that offer.
“We will be applying for phase two funding,” she said.
The Ontario government last month pledged a total of $4.4 billion in relief for all 444 of the province’s municipalities. Quinlin had said on July 27 that if Pelham received nothing, the Town would be looking at a 4.5 percent tax levy increase next year.
“This combination of federal and provincial funding is gratefully received and very well timed,” Cribbs added. “The Town has commenced work on its 2021 budgets — capital, operating and water/wastewater. Beyond the obvious help the money provides in reducing the Town’s financial losses attributable to the pandemic, this funding also helps staff make better assessments of the Town’s financial standing by providing both clarity and certainty at this critical juncture.”
Pelham has seen many of its revenue streams return in the last two months, mainly through the re-issuing of building permits and the reopening of both ice pads at the community centre. Cribbs credited the latter to an “entrepreneurial” approach.
“Town council and administration made a number of difficult decisions over the past five months that involved freezing controllable spending, laying off 33 staff, deferring $1.5 million in capital spending and adapting an entrepreneurial mindset with regard to opening the Accipiter Arena six weeks early [compared to pre-COVID planning] to increase revenues,” he said. “Beyond taking aggressive steps to address the financial threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town has succeeded in reopening the majority of its services and facilities in a safe manner that has avoided negative health outcomes.”