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Wellesley’s COVID-related losses top $81,000; council extends its late-payment relief program

Lost revenues and the waiving of fees in response to the COVID-19 crisis has cost Wellesley Township more than $81,000, and the meter is still running.

The total will certainly climb, aided by council’s decision Tuesday night to extend waiving penalties for late payment of property taxes. The decision also waives non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees charged by the township through to the end of June and suspends collection activities until August 31.

The first phase of waiving late fees saw the township forego $18,915.70 in revenue – part of the $81,000 in losses, and extending the relief program an extra month through June could cost up to an additional $11,510.

Mayor Joe Nowak says these losses are necessary through this time and the township has been able to absorb the loss through the stabilization fund.

“It’s challenging times for municipalities big and small so I think we were very fortunate that we’ve had a very, very strong financial record over the last number of years so I think we’re going to be able to get through this thing and we’ll be OK,” said Nowak.“It’s regrettable, but it happens (and) there’s not much we can do about it.”

Tax penalty and interest waived through April 1 totalled $6,437.89, while the total for May almost doubled to $12,477.81.

This week’s move is in line with actions taken by the Region of Waterloo and member municipalities.

The bulk of the $81,000 revenue shortfall thus far came from the recreation department, where fees for rentals and the like will take a hit for more than $59,000 through June, according to a report prepared by treasurer Theresa Bisch.

Nowak says this number is expected to rise, even as plans for reopening sports fields are on the horizon. He says as they are not going to be able to charge fees to organized sports for the time being until the province allows them to do so.

“These fields are opening up and… families will be able to use them as long as there’s no more than five people in a group. So those regulations are still in place and we won’t be charging any fees for the use of those until the province says they’re going to allow some kind of sporting to happen,” he added.

The loss represents almost 11 per cent of the recreation department’s projected $545,500 in revenue included in the 2020 operational budget.

To mitigate the loss of income, the township is looking at a number of measures, including eliminating discretionary training, staff layoffs, and maintenance cost reductions due to facility closures. Other savings are expected to come from a reduction in the use of hydro, natural gas, and fuel, combining to help offset the current losses totalling more than $81,000.

The number is expected to rise now that council approved the second phase of financial and economic relief, extending supports already in place.

The combined loss from both phases of the relief program is expected to top $30,000.

Nowak says there are no plans to expand the relief program at this time.

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