Greater Napanee council passed an interim 2020 operating and capital budget during a special outdoor meeting the morning of March 19.
Almost as noteworthy as the content of the meeting was the matter in which it was conducted. In accordance with social distancing measures currently in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, the meeting was held in the town hall’s parking lot. Council members and staff stood in a spaced out circle, using the hood of a car as a desk to take notes.
Council voted to adopt a budget of $12,225,244, which translates to a 4.8 per cent increase to the tax base. The budget is considered interim as so much remains unknown amid the COVID-19 provincial state of emergency.
Discretionary spending within the approved 2020 interim budgets will be limited, while council plans to revisit the budget in a month.
“(The budget was passed while) cautioning staff, which doesn’t need any cautioning, that we know our revenues are going to be reduced because we can’t rent any facilities and we’ll have people that have trouble paying taxes and so on, which are things we’ll be looking at to help,” said Greater Napanee Mayor Marg Isbester. “Any unnecessary costs just couldn’t be done.”
Council also voted to suspend all future meetings at town hall for the time being, though they will be exploring ‘virtual’ meetings. The state of emergency declared by the province gave them the power to do so.
In the meantime, council also adopted a delegation of authority by-law to allow staff to continue to run day-to-day operations. Isbester noted the by-law is similar to that of a ‘lame duck’ council protocol, essentially allowing staff to approve certain expenditures, within reason, that are needed on an emergency basis that would normally have to be done before council.
A similar style of meeting was held at the Lennox and Addington County level later in the day, this time in the parking lot of the county courthouse.
At the special meeting, council approved a budget of $28,960,973, which amounts to a 3.1 per cent increase from 2019. A resident with a property assessment of $254, 397 would see an increase of $31.42.