Prescott avoids layoffs – so far

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PRESCOTT – The town has managed its financial woes caused by COVID-19 without having to lay off staff, Mayor Brett Todd said this week.

“We’re moving forward and trying to keep our Prescott team whole and everybody working,” Todd told council.

He said a number of surrounding municipalities – Brockville for one – have had to cut staff because of declining revenues and cash flows, but Prescott has been able to buck that trend so far.

That situation could change later this year, depending on the town’s finances, he warned. And depending on when such summer facilities as the pool and the marina are allowed to open, it might not make sense to hire seasonal employees, he added.

Matt Armstrong, chief administrative officer, said the closing of town hall hasn’t affected many employees, almost all of whom have managed to continue working from home. Outside workers, of course, continue to work outside, he said.


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The discussion about staffing came as Armstrong gave his projections of the cash-flow troubles that the town will face for the rest of the year.

He predicted the town will be short $2.4 million in cash flow in 2020, although he cautioned that things are changing rapidly so that figure is a guess based on current data and a lot of assumptions.

About half of that shortfall – $1.2 million – would come from delays in the payment of property tax bills. Armstrong estimated that only 66 per cent of property owners would have paid their taxes by the end of the year. Similarly, payment of water and sewer bills would be behind about $300,000, equal to about a month and a half of payments.

Armstrong stressed that the cash-flow problem doesn’t mean that the town is out that money. The payments are only delayed, he said, and the town could expect to recoup the tax payments and water-rate money in 2021.

In the meantime, however, the town will have to manage its money carefully by dipping into its reserves and controlling its expenses, Armstrong added.

Armstrong suggested that council delay about $2 million of its planned capital spending for 2020, and only go ahead with $518,000.

The big-ticket items to be shelved are the reconstruction of the road and water-and-sewer lines on Dibble and East streets at a cost of $1.2 million.

Armstrong recommends that the town also delay the $175,000 project that would finish the renovations to the second floor of the town hall and the $250,000 breakwater to protect the water treatment plant.


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The delayed projects could be taken off the back burner if the federal and provincial governments offer infrastructure grants to stoke the economy after the COVID crisis ends, he added.

The remaining $518,000 to be spent on capital projects in 2020 cover an array of smaller-ticket items, including the splash pad in Centennial Park.

Armstrong said the town soon would start work on running the water and wastewater lines to the splash pad and a small building at the site. He said the work would be finished in four to six weeks.

Todd cautioned that the splash pad might not be able to open this season, depending on the social-distancing rules later this summer.

The town will spend $25,000 for accessible sidewalks on King Street at Walker House, Edwards at Water streets and Edward at Irvine. It will spend $65,000 for dock repairs and other work at the marina, $2,000 to replace the swings at Fader’s Park and $60,000 to do some work at town hall.

The town also will spend $39,000 to upgrade Water Street streetlights to LED to coincide with Bell Canada’s work to expand fibre optics to Prescott.

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