The Village of Cumberland has tallied up costs so far related to COVID and is looking at ways to open up facilities such as the Village office. Record file photo

Cumberland tallies up COVID costs so far

Village saw some savings but a few more expenses in recent months

For the Village of Cumberland, responding to COVID-19 has had an effect on its finances.

In some cases, it’s meant a drop in revenue and increased costs, but in others, there have been savings, at least as of the beginning of June.

Chief financial officer Michelle Mason presented council with an update of what the pandemic had meant for Village coffers as of the June 8 regular meeting.

The end result is a slight deficit on the balance sheet. Overall, the estimate includes less revenue from Village services such as recreation, culture and parks, along with a loss of interest income. Delays to services such as development permits also meant less revenue. Meanwhile, there were also some increased costs for information and technology and wages as a result of COVID provisions, an example being a switch to holding meetings in an online format.

The amount the Village is down is $80,765. However, this has been offset by some savings that resulted. The biggest category has been a reduction in costs for organization-wide training and travel expenses. Other savings or added revenue came from unexpected sales of surplus Village assets and the delay in a start for summer student workers. This amount totaled about $76,320, meaning the ultimate cost to the Village was a net loss of a little over $4,000, which Mason described as “quite manageable” under the current circumstances.

There are likely to be further changes to the numbers as communities go through a process to partly reopen, so Mason said council can expect more information on the financial impact in the near future.

“We’ll revisit these estimates again come the fall,” she said.

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As to the pandemic situation in general, council credited staff for their quick response to many of the uncertainties starting in March.

“Staff did a great job in responding to COVID,” Coun. Jesse Ketler said, crediting new chief administrative officer Clayton Postings in particular for coming into a difficult situation at the start of his job.

Postings responded that staff did start holding meetings immediately when a pandemic was declared.

“We still have a lot of work left to do,” he added.

Also at the June 8 meeting, council approved a motion to adopt a statement clarifying the Village’s policy around re-openings for services and facilities be aligned with WorkSafe BC, BC Centre for Disease Control and Ministry of Health recommendations and guidelines. This includes a statement that any re-openings are to be supported by safety work procedures, safety plans, signs and communications strategies as well as an acknowledgment that the Village needs to be responsive to any changing conditions regarding COVID-19 that could require further closures in the future.

Postings said the Village has made changes in recent weeks, such as opening up to the extent of allowing some people to make in-person payment of taxes through appointments if residents need to meet with someone. The main focus, he said, was on how to reopen the recreation centre and the Village of Cumberland office.

“Some of our spaces are not really suitable for having the public … for example, the front of the Village office,” he said. “We’re just putting those plans into place…. Definitely, we’re going to have to do some improvements to the facilities here.”

He expects to bring a more detailed report to council at the next regular meeting.



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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