While the town produced a $171,610 operating budget surplus for 2019, a slow down in development continues to impact town revenues.

That, in combination with an as-of-yet unclear picture on the cost of COVID-19, leaves the town unsure of how close it will come to living within its 2020 budget.

With this in mind, the 2019 surplus is being placed in a temporary administration operating reserve should it needed to be required to help balance the books in the current year. 

"We don't know what the impacts of COVID are going to be on our 2020 operations," Katherine Van Keimpema, general manager of town corporate services, told council on Monday night (Sept. 28). "We anticipate we may not get the revenues we were expecting to get."

"We tried very hard to offset that with decreases in expenses but it won't be until the end of the year that we'll really know where we land in 2020."

The town's fourth quarter results showed planning revenues were $163,000 less than budgeted for 2019, While supplementary assessments were $52,000 higher than budgeted, that trend is not expected to continue in 2020.

Safety codes revenue was $149,000 higher than anticipated due to both an increase in the number of gas and electrical permits in 2019 and change in fee structure. That trend is also not anticipated to continue in 2020.

Also aiding was higher than budgeted revenue from town investments.

While most departments came in under budget, Legislative and Protective Services was $161,507.38 over budget. It was fuelled by the additional expense of back pay owed to firefighters after a new agreement was signed with IAFF Local 4819. Fire Services came in $417,055.46 over budget.

For a good decade, the town was racking up surpluses or $500,000-plus because of rapid growth. That all changed in 2018 when the town had a $90,530 surplus, a substantial drop from $584,525 in 2017.

Mayor Jeff Genung believes moving away from relying heavily upon growth isn't a bad thing.

"We have, as a community, relied on growth to help our budget. While it's going to be challenging to adjust to less growth, in my opinion, I believe we're going to be better off. It's something that we can't rely upon. I've heard loud and clear from residents that we need to manage our own community for existing residents so that we're sustainable long-term."

Genung, though, remains supportive of managed growth.

Town council will be taking its first look at the 2021 budget at its Oct. 26 meeting.