A clearer picture is now available of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the financial priorities of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR).

At the June 24 UCPR council meeting, the mayors approved revisions to the 2020 budget that were presented in a report from Treasurer Valérie Parisien.

The report emphasized that the revisions do not affect the 2020 tax levy or established UCPR tax rates for the year.  However, the revisions are the result of changes made by council in recent months, the impact of costs for tenders/requests for proposal, salary revisions, and the addition or withdrawal of projects.

The revisions were made by reducing spending in some departments and increasing it in others and represents a total of $19,413,300.

Among the revisions related to COVID-19, $541,000 is being transferred from the Administration Working Fund Reserve to finance pandemic-related expenses for the ambulance service.  An additional $23,500 in spending will occur for COVID-19-related emergency measures.  However, emergency measures operations for pandemic-related ambulance expenses are projected to cost $150,000 in the revision report.

Expenses are projected to increase significantly in the Social Services Department.  To meet the needs of vulnerable people during the pandemic, $1,114,500 is being allocated, along with $1,981,400 for expenses related to the Social Services Relief Fund to meet the needs of vulnerable residents during the pandemic.

The pandemic is likely to lead to a decrease in revenues from fines for provincial offences such as traffic tickets and smoking violations.  Approximately $570,000 less in revenue from those fines is projected in 2020.  The loss in provincial offences revenue means that an estimated $533,000 of revenue from fines will not be redistributed to the UCPR’s eight municipalities in 2020.  Additionally, the counties are expected to receive $115,000 less in revenue from Victim Fine Surcharges.

The UCPR will also have to spend $21,900 on renovations to the provincial offences office in L’Orignal

Due to interest rate decreases, the UCPR is projected to earn $350,000 less on interest from its investments in 2020.

Not all of the revisions are due to pandemic-related considerations.  For example, the 2020 budget now contains $10,000 for the project designed to bring gender parity in representation on municipal councils throughout the counties, and an additional $500,000 grant to the Roger-Séguin long-term care facility.

Savings to offset the changes in expenses have been achieved due to vacant staff positions and summer student positions not being filled, particularly in the Public Works Department and at the Prescott-Russell Residence.

None of the mayors present at the June 24 UCPR council meeting questioned the budget revisions and they were approved unanimously.