Antigonish County has concerns about next fiscal year

ANTIGONISH: Although it’s still too early to say for sure, the Warden for Antigonish says the municipality could be looking at a surplus.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Warden Owen McCarron advised the municipality’s revenue from tax collections has remained steady, while some of its funding to community groups and organizations did not proceed.

“At this point, our collections have been strong, and with COVID-19, some organizations that have made funding requests weren’t able to go forward,” McCarron told The Reporter. “Also some of our municipal programming had to be put on hold as well.”

Municipal officials are still assessing COVID’s total impact on their bottom line, but it’s something he said they won’t likely know fully until the fall of 2021.

Overall, the warden said he was very pleased, as they were able to complete a number of capital projects and he believes they’re going to finish the year in a surplus position, depending on how the rest of the winter turns out.

“We feel the county did exceptionally well to date with our handling and working through the challenges that COVID-19 threw at us,” McCarron said. “We were able to pivot quickly to have staff work from home and then a safe restart at our municipal office all the while maintaining our municipal waste collection and water/sewer operations without interruption to our residents.”

Having said that, McCarron suggested council is concerned with the next fiscal year and what implications COVID-19 will have on their bottom line.

“Our concerns going forward (are) the fact that COVID can change so quickly. We just look at what’s happening in Newfoundland,” McCarron said. “We need to continually work and follow public health guidance to ensure we remain as safe as we are until the vaccine rollout gets us past this.”

He explained this upcoming year will be more of the same, and they’re ready for the unexpected, as they have demonstrated the ability to pivot quickly if need be.

In terms of assistance from the provincial government, the county received a little over $600,000 and they are now determining the framework around how they can spend the money.

As council moves into its grant program, McCarron said he expects there will be an increase in requests from last year now that the pandemic doesn’t completely have a grasp on the world, noting it is now open for requests.

“We have had a very consistent group of applicants for the past number of years,” he said. “I suspect each organization will need to review their own situation before applying.”

The deadline for grant applications ends Mar. 31.