Wheatland County’s third quarter update shows impacts of pandemic

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Wheatland County’s finances have been impacted in different ways by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the regular county council meeting on Nov. 10, the county’s third quarter unaudited financial statements were presented by Matthew Kurceba, manager of financial services. Figures were presented as of Sept. 30 and compared to values one year prior (Sept. 30, 2019).

Regarding the county’s financial assets, the county’s cash position is on par with last year, measured one month after the county’s 2020 tax deadline of Aug. 31. However, taxes and grants in place of taxes receivable (outstanding municipal taxes) is higher as of September 2020 (about $9.7 million) compared to that of last year (about $7.2 million). This increase is mainly due to the economic impact of COVID-19 on county ratepayers, said Kurceba.

Accounts payable has increased, from about $11.9 million to about $13 million, representing the amount of remaining education requisition payments and gravel pit repayments. The amount increased from last year due to education requisition payments being higher, due to taxes for non-residential properties from June and September 2020 being deferred until December 2020.

Total operating expenses are lower than last year by $4 million. This decrease is due to measures taken by the county to decrease expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Kurceba. A major factor in this was staff reductions, resulting in a reduced total salary figure and less overtime generated.

But there were some other reasons why the pandemic reduced county expenses, explained CAO Brian Henderson. Training costs were lower, with many courses either not offered or deferred, he said. Additionally, fuel costs were lower, due to lower-than-expected diesel and gasoline prices.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times