The Strathcona Regional District received their share of the provincial Safe Restart funding this month, and are working to determine where those funds will go.
The $539,000 can only go to a certain number of areas, which include revenue shortfalls, facility reopening and operating costs, emergency planning and response, bylaw enforcement and protective services, computer and technology, services for vulnerable persons and other costs related to the pandemic. Each municipality and regional district in the province received a portion of the $425 million grant, which is part of a larger $540 million fund that is going to local governments in the province. Two other streams, Development Services ($15 million) and Strengthening Communities ($100 million), are application-based and have not opened yet.
“It’s the board’s responsibility to allocate that to applicable services, and they give us some stipulations,” said Mike Harmston, SRD financial officer. “We have some clarifications that we’re going to be getting from the ministry, but mostly it’ll be for any operations that have been impacted, and it’ll address revenue for shortfalls, facility re-openings, bylaw considerations and such.”
The $539,000 was allocated to the regional district based on its population size. All regional districts were eligible for a base funding of $300,000, and the rest of the money was calculated based on the population.
Harmston will be coming back to the SRD board with a plan on exactly how to spend the money. As part of the grant agreement, regional districts are required to report on their plan and their spending until the funds are completely spent.
At the November 4 meeting, a report was made on the district’s financial outlook looking toward the end of 2020. The outlook was positive, with larger surpluses than anticipated for many of the district’s functions. However, Harmston explained that these surpluses were only present because of the pandemic, and that as things re-open costs will go up again.
“A lot of the operations are taxpayer subsidized, so the act of shutting it down created the surplus, but as that comes back online, the expense will come back a lot faster than the revenues,” he explained. “The [Strathcona] Gardens is actually a pretty good example. We actually had the facility closure, and so that’s taxpayer subsidized… There’ll be a surplus this year, but it all depends on how next year shapes up as the applicable revenue comes back.”
The funds must be fully allocated by December 31, 2020, with reports required on the funds going to the province until all of the funds are spent.