The town didn't see a surplus in a year plagued by the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet, it cannot be viewed as anything short of victory after finding ways to offset additional costs and revenue shortfalls through a combination of cost-cutting measures and provincial funding.

Cost savings of $1.57 million were implemented, and the town revenue decreased by $1 million. 

There was a $477,000 less in revenue at the Cochrane RancheHouse & Community Events Centre than anticipated, and a $225,000 decrease in anticipated revenue from town facilities, park amenities, program fees, and athletic fields.

Fines revenue dropped $185,000 and providing free use of the on-demand transit system from April to August cost $62,000.

Extending timelines for tax payment and waving penalties for four months reduced revenue by $37,000, Business licence fees collected were $28,000 less than projected.

In addition to the impact of the pandemic, the town faced additional costs of $125,000 due to changes in programs and staffing shortages. Restructuring the senior administration saw the town paid out $450,000 in compensation.

These were, in part, offset by the RCMP services coming in $335,000 under budget.

Slower growth reduced revenue from safety code inspections, development permits, and compliance certificates. 

Because the Bank of Canada dropped its rate to below one per cent, the town earned $100,000 less in interest than anticipated.

The road department had budgeted funds to repay debt to be taken for the James Walker Trail bridge, but it will not be drawn until 2021 and no costs were incurred for principal and interest. After a measured discussion, council agreed to move $601,687.99 of the debt repayment budgeted amount into its Roads Rehabilitation Reserve. This will bring that reserve back to a positive balance of $34,973.

A total of $765,676 in Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) funding was drawn in 2020, $750,000 of which was used to support the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre (SLSFSC) because of forced closures and the limits placed on its services thereafter.

The town continues to face financial hurdles in 2021, and intends to use the remaining $2.2 million in MOST funding to assist with COVID-19 related expenses, lost revenue, anticipated increased staffing and labour costs, and to distribute funds to others, like  SLSFSC.