The municipality is managing a $1,013,000 COVID-19 Safe Restart Grants for Local Governments. File photo

Princeton finance director explains spending of COVID relief dollars

The bulk of grant funds is headed to reserves

When it comes to the spending of more than $1 million in federal and provincial COVID relief dollars, the Town of Princeton has followed the protocols, states director of finance James Graham.

A recently released auditor’s report details where the money went, and where it is going.

“We did as the province asked,” said Graham.

In November 2020, the town was granted $1,013,000 through the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grants for Local Governments.

Related: Town of Princeton gets $1 million in COVID relief

There were strict rules as to how that money can be spent.

Eligible costs include: addressing revenues shortfalls, facility reopening and operating costs, emergency planning and response costs, bylaw enforcement and protective services like fire and police, computer and other electronic technology costs to improve inter-connectivity and virtual communications, services for vulnerable persons, for example people living with disabilities, mental illness or addictions, or who are experiencing homelessness or other vulnerabilities and other related costs.

The bulk of the grant money, $800,000, has gone to cover projected land sales budgeted as revenue for 2020 that never materialized. The 2020 budget was written late in 2019.

Those sales were expected to be lots in the industrial park, as well as the sale of lots in Glenview Park, which the municipality hoped to convert into a small subdivision.

The Glenview Park plan collapsed in August 2020, after an attempt for a go-ahead through the Alternative Approval Process was defeated.

Related: Princeton council abandons plans to develop Glenview Park

Graham said the industrial park sales were not finalized due to a COVID slowdowns.

The $800,000 in lost revenue will end up in a land improvement reserve, should any sales go through in 2021, or in a COVID reserve for use as directed by the province.

Monies in the land improvement reserve can be spent on numerous projects, including creating parks, community enhancements, or purchasing buildings.

The municipality must report the use of COVID grant dollars annually.

Graham acknowledged his office has seen some criticism over how the grant has been allocated.

Some residents, he said, felt the money should go to tax relief or similar measures, however he reiterated the town is adhering to the rules.

Other communities, he added, chose to use the money to kill budgeted tax increases or forgo service fees.

“I’m trying to be diplomatic,” said Graham. “That’s not necessarily what the money was intended for.”

Either way, Graham said the dollars will remain in Princeton. “It definitely could be a good news story, at the end of the day. We are a growing municipality. We’d like additional services in the future and this puts us in a better position…It’s important to maintain the financial health of our municipality.”

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