Mark Clairmont |

GRAVENHURST — Working from home has proven to be a successful way of doing business that may become more common after the pandemic, says a new report for the Town of Gravenhurst, which also calls for timely approval of temporary restaurant/bar patio applications and infrastructure repairs.

CAO Glen Davies adds says in a release Friday that updated financial projections from COVID-19 show $100,000 less in saving as a result of changes including closures of the Opera House, Centennial Centre and library.

He says in his report to council Tuesday, June 16, that two months ago the staff administration had estimated a loss of about $1.2 million in revenue and to offset that, a variety of decisions were made around closures and staffing that cannot easily be reversed.

As importantly, the report states, is whether provincial and/or health guidelines around Stage 2 re-opening “can be implemented without negatively impacting the health and safety of staff, citizens and visitors.”

Davies says the town is regularly consulting with BFL CANADA, the town’s insurance broker and risk management consulting service. Potential liabilities associated with our ability to safely open are a critical consideration, he says in his report.

Two primary considerations for re-opening municipal services are:

  1. Whether or not reintroducing a service would have a negative impact on the financial position of the town, which if that were the case council direction might be needed;
  2. That reintroducing the service can be accomplished without a high risk to the health and safety of staff and/or the public. The assessment in both cases could be quite different from one municipality to another and in all cases the municipality has the right to decide what discretionary services it will provide and at what level, notwithstanding what the Province says can be provided. Essential services and legislated services are all still being provided.

Davies says that based on changing circumstances, staff have updated projections for year-end with current circumstances taken into consideration.

He says it is important to note in a “rapidly changing environment” it is difficult to make financial projections.

His April 16 report to council identified a projected revenue shortfall of $1.2 million based on the assumption that most municipal services would either be cancelled for the year or only available in the late fall.

As well, he said at the time, significant steps were taken to reduce operating costs and adjust expenditure projections in the amount $1.7 million. The net impact was to be an estimated annual savings of $500,000.

Now — in light of on-going changes to town operations as services open up, future phased openings that are likely and development activity ramping up — these numbers have been revised to reflect a $1.0 million reduction in revenues offset by a $1.4 million reduction in projected expenditures.

He said that means net annual savings are now projected to be just $400,000.

Davies said “the net position is not much different than before and is likely to narrow as we get closer to year-end.

“The final outcome will be based at least in part on how we stagger the opening of facilities as well as council decisions (e.g. continuing with the waiver of penalties on 2020 taxes for the balance of the year beyond July would reduce our actual revenues by an estimated $115,000).”

He anticipates further changes between now and year-end — including the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall — may also change these projections.

Town administration is “committed to responding to these challenges with flexibility, while managing within the resources approved for services in our community through the 2020 operating budget,” he said.

The report states a consequence of having buildings and other space vacant or almost vacant has been the opportunity to advance planned asset management work.

Such as getting work done faster, cheaper or just getting more work done without disrupting services.

Example included in the report were:

  • Rebuilding the stage at the Opera House;
  • Extensive repairs and preventative maintenance to the pool at the Centennial Centre;
  • Significant deep clean and painting program in the arena;
  • Acceleration of repairs and maintenance at Fire Hall # 1 which has included window replacements and painting;
  • New front door system and other anticipated capital works and repairs at the Gravenhurst Public Library;
  • Expedited repair and capital investment at the Wharf and Franklin Park docking facilities;
  • An accelerated urban street sweeping program.

See Davies’ full report to council here.

An updated financial report for council states projected savings are $100,000 less than expected as the effects of COVID-19 remain fluid, says its CAO Glen Davies this week.



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