Wellington County reports $7 million surplus for 2020

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WELLINGTON COUNTY – Federal and provincial COVID relief funding and mitigation measures have led to the County of Wellington reporting its largest year-end budget surplus in a decade.

A report by treasurer Ken DeHart puts the county’s 2020 year-end surplus at nearly $7 million.

At Tuesday’s administration, finance and human resources committee meeting, DeHart said 2020 was an “extraordinary year” in terms of the county’s finances.

DeHart attributed it mainly to government funding, which totalled nearly $3.8 million, which covered additional costs and lost revenue in some departments due to the pandemic.

He also noted the county adjusted its operations, which contributed greatly to this surplus.

The county roads department saved $1.4 million on parts, fuel, repairs and by not hiring summer students or filling vacant positions.

Many other departments also delayed or did not hire to fill vacant positions.

Higher than anticipated assessments were also noted as playing a role in the large surplus.

Property owners will see some benefit of the excess cash in their taxes, with $2 million already earmarked for a tax levy stabilization reserve.

During budget time, county council approved using $2 million over a three-year period to avoid a high tax levy increase for residents.

For 2021’s budget, this meant a 1.2 per cent increase rather than 2.5 per cent which was originally projected.

The rest of the surplus will go towards reducing tax-supported debt on two projects.

The solid waste services capital reserve will get $2.35 million to eliminate the debt required for the Riverstown collection system and $2.6 million to the Arthur garage project also to reduce the amount of tax supported debt.

DeHart said combined this is expected to save over $500,000 off the 2022 tax levy.

In an email, DeHart confirmed the 2020 surplus is unusual as it would traditionally hover around $1.5 million.

Two years, 2017 and 2018, also ended up as larger than usual surpluses at $2.7 million and $4 million respectively.

Committee chair Chris White said the plan seemed well thought out and was glad to see staff working ahead to mitigate impacts to next year’s tax levy.

The committee approved the recommendations to go forward to county council.

Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com