Queens finances faring well in the face of COVID-19

Queens Place Emera Centre
Queens Place Emera Centre.
Ed Halverson - - LiverpoolNS | 13-08-2020

Region of Queens seems to be weathering the economic storm brought on by COVID-19.

The first quarter financial results presented at the most recent session of council show the municipality is in good fiscal shape despite dealing with the coronavirus.

Director of finance Jennifer Keating-Hubley says the municipality allowed residents more time to pay their property taxes, moving the due date back a month from June 30 to July 31.

Keating-Hubley says the measure seems to have worked as over 95 percent of residents made payment arrangements by the July deadline.

“There might be the odd business that’s finding cash flow to be a bit of an issue. But they’re still making substantial payments, probably in an effort not to have a big bill later,” says Keating-Hubley. “But no, we’ve not had anybody call to say I just can’t do it”

At $13.5 million, property taxes make up over half the Region of Queen’ budgeted revenue of $21 million.

The province had offered loans to municipalities struggling to make ends meet.

Keating-Hubley says because of their high collection rates, the Region of Queens decided not to take the province up on their offer.

She says the municipality has the option to dip into their reserve fund to make up any cash shortfalls.

“We prepare for, or do budget prep for a rainy day and here it is. Rainy day/pandemic. So I have a reserve money to float our cash flow issues in the interim,” says Keating-Hubley.

The remainder of the municipality’s revenue comes from quarterly government equalization payments, transfer payments and grants in-lieu, which arrive later in the year.

Keating-Hubley says council will still need to be cautious about adding any new spending.

She says the recreation department was particularly hard hit earlier in the year when they had to close Queens Place for COVID-19 at almost the peak of ice-rental season.

“This statement shows Queens Place revenue is shy of the, this would be a 25 percent marker, first quarter, and we’re at 8.6 percent.,” says Keating-Hubley . “So we’re down revenues from where we should be this time of year.”

She says the 16 per cent projects to an annual shortfall of approximately $350,000.

Keating-Hubley says one bright spot on the ledger sheet is the rise in deed-transfer fees for the fourth year in a row.

“Which means houses are selling. Real estate, it’s supposedly a sellers market out there right now, from what I’m hearing. But from what I’m seeing, there’s a lot of property movement. That hasn’t declined at all,” says Keating-Hubley.

She says the first quarter report overall is quite positive, and Region of Queens is fortunate to not feel the impact of COVID-19 as desperately as other municipalities around the province.

Reported by Ed Halverson 
E-mail: edhalversonnews@gmail.com
Twitter: @edwardhalverson