The UCPR discussed the second version of the budget with several alterations from the first meeting.
The United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) held a special meeting on November 8 to discuss the second version of the annual budget, which included several changes voted on during the last meeting. The budget now includes a total of $1,267,000 in grants to various community organizations, as well as an increased investment directed toward the new Prescott-Russell Residence.
The grants section of the budget lists many different community organizations and businesses that the UCPR is giving money to. During the special meeting, Mélanie Gratton of Finance Department outlined the changes that were voted on during the last meeting: the UCPR’s discretionary funds were increased by $150,000, the Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network’s grant was reduced by $5,000 as per its request, and two new grants were added. Council allotted $50,000 to Hawkesbury General Hospital for various expenses and $43,000 towards Regroupement Autisme Prescott-Russell to cover its budget deficit.
As for the Prescott-Russell Residence, council directed $800,000 from the working capital reserve and added a further $881,400 to the county’s share of the funding to reduce the future debt. The 2024 budget lists $1,109,300 in capital and interest payments, subsidized by $846,200, for a total financial impact of $263,100. The 2025 budget lists $3,327,700 in capital and interest payments, subsidized by $1,678,500, for a total financial impact of $1,649,200.
Mayor of The Nation Francis Brière asked if the UCPR could sell the old PR Residence once the new one is finished and use the funds to alleviate some of the debt. Chief Administrative Officer Stéphane Parisien said it was a possibility, but the new PR Residence won’t be fully moved-into until almost the end of 2024, so any action would have to wait until 2025. In addition, the owner of the land that the new residence is being built on has the right of first refusal, and there’s a set price in their contract that the UCPR must honour if they choose to purchase the land. Only if they refuse could the UCPR list the property for sale.
Brière also noted that the budget includes $2.5 million in the reserve fund marked for COVID expenses. He asked if the money could be used for other things seeing as COVID is “pretty much done with”, but Gratton said that the money was sent from the Ministry of Health and can only be used for telecommunication infrastructure to facilitate Work From Home (WFH) policies. Casselman mayor Geneviève Lajoie asked if the money could be directed to member municipalities to implement WFH policies there, but Gratton said the money could only be used by the UCPR as an institution and not any individual municipality. Lajoie asked if the UCPR could petition the Ministry of Health to release the money for other COVID-related reasons, such as supporting local hospitals in mental health initiatives. Gratton said the department could ask, but that she didn’t have an answer right then.
Brière then asked about $7.2 million set aside in the working capital for ambulances. Marc-André Pèriard of the Emergency Services Department said the amount comes from reserves collected annually to replace ambulances and repair stations, which would otherwise be added to the budget individually.
After the aforementioned changes, the reserve fund is estimated at $39,638,000 for the end of 2024, decreasing by $1,381,000. The changes were approved, and the final budget will be presented at a later date.