Guelph-Eramosa ‘in good shape’ financially despite pandemic

Township evaluating meeting format; will reopen walking track, offer fitness programming next month

BRUCEDALE – Guelph-Eramosa is managing the financial impacts of COVID-19 pretty well, the township’s finance director told council on Aug. 10.

The revenue that has been lost due to the cancellation of recreational programs and facility rentals during the pandemic – about $89,000 – has been offset by savings from not running the programs, and capital projects are moving forward as planned, said Linda Cheyne.

“We’re in good shape,” she said. “Most of our revenue comes from taxation” and by-and-large, residents have been making their payments.

“Right now, we’re where we’re supposed to be.”

Indeed, the township collected $1,151,071 by the end of June, an increase of $185,863 over the same period last year, Cheyne noted in her report.

Taxes receivable at the end of June “represent 7.96% of the total interim taxes billed in 2020, an increase of 1.03% when compared to the outstanding taxes as of June 30, 2019,” she stated.

Cheyne also noted, “The debenture for the Royal Distributing Athletic Performance Centre became due on June 3, 2020, and the final payment as well as the balloon payment totalling $1,356,000 has been repaid in full.

Mayor Chris White said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “Other municipalities had to make changes.”

He noted municipalities with transit systems are particularly hard-hit. “Sitting back in May, we didn’t know what would be what.”

Cheyne also reported on the status of development charges in 2019.

She said the township collected $4,726,992 in development charges: $1,418,487 for growth-related capital initiatives and $3,308,505 for water and wastewater growth-related infrastructure in Rockwood.

Last year $1,354,689 from development charge reserves was used for infrastructure and capital initiatives as well as debt financing costs.

The township had to refund $759,120 to developers for overpayment of sanitary sewer development charges, as ordered by the Local Planning Authority Tribunal.

“Without development charges, we would do a lot less, or taxes would be higher,” noted White.

Return to public meetings

Council also learned that staff is exploring ways to start holding public meetings while still following public health recommendations.

Clerk Amanda Knight outlined three options.

In-person meetings would require a larger venue than the council chamber and could hold a maximum of 50 people, excluding staff.

“We would still need technology,” Knight said, plus masks, enhanced cleaning, screening of attendees, and physical distancing.

Video conferencing, through a platform like Zoom, relies on the internet, which is notoriously spotty in the township, she said.

The third option is teleconference, which is how council has been holding its meetings since the state of emergency was called in the spring. Knight said staff will pilot a public meeting on Sept. 2 using teleconferencing to see how it works.

“I’m not ready to be back in person,” said councillor Louise Marshall.

Council approved a bylaw that would allow for all three options.

Fitness programming to begin in September

Parks and recreation director Robin Milne said staff has been exploring ways to reopen the Royal Distributing Athletic Performance Centre and indoor track in Marden.

He said a survey indicates 70 per cent of facility users would come back for fitness classes.

He said 50 people have registered for five fitness sessions to be held in August as a pilot project.

“We’ll run through the protocols and readjust as necessary,” he said.

Milne added the township will reopen the walking track on Sept. 8 and reinstitute fitness programming on Sept. 21. The track will be closed while fitness classes are on.