MORRISBURG – Municipality of South Dundas finance staff are predicting the township will have a significant amount of COVID-19 funding money remaining at the end of the year.

“This is a rough estimate,” treasurer Sarah McMillan said. “We are still expecting more expenses to be incurred by year end. However, the expenses are expected to be minimal and any major purchases using the funding does come to council first for approval. So, I’m estimating that we’ll have around $100,000 remaining at year end. It’s unclear at this time if we’ll have to return any unspent funding. We’re trying to be creative with how we utilize the funds. However, we are constrained in that we can’t use it for capital and we’re trying to limit purchases that would impact any future operating budget.”

During the Oct. 25 South Dundas council meeting, McMillan provided local politicians with an update on all COVID-19 funding from how much was received and spent to how much remains and what can be done with it moving forward. While most of council encouraged McMillan to pursue creative solutions to spending the remaining dollars, Mayor Steven Byvelds suggested continuing to spend it wisely, as there’s no guarantee there won’t be more pandemic-related needs coming.

“As the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, there may be more expenses or operating pressures that the municipality can utilize the funding for,” McMillan said in her report.

Like its neighbouring municipalities throughout Ontario, South Dundas received funding in both 2020 and 2021 through the federal and provincial Safe Restart Agreement. The amount South Dundas received was $359,600. In addition to this, the township saw an additional $191,690 in funds added to South Dundas’ pandemic reserves through Ontario COVID-19 Recovery Funding. Together, South Dundas received $551,290 in funding for pandemic-related needs via the upper tier governments. McMillan said that after 2020’s expenses were accounted for, there was roughly $351,768 remaining in the municipality’s COVID-19 funds.

So far, $206,660 of those funds have been used in 2021, leaving a balance of roughly $145,108. This, McMillan said, is higher than originally anticipated, as there were significant savings in both the website project and the emergency management expenses.

McMillan noted that current communication from the province indicates that municipalities are to keep those funds in a reserve for any potential 2022 pandemic-related needs, but this could change. While there has been no indication that the province will want remaining funds returned to them, this could change when municipalities submit their final COVID-19 funding reports in the spring of 2022.