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County to take a financial hit due to dump closure

COVID-19's complicated impacts will likely mean a negative variance of up to $220,000 or three per cent of the total budget for the solid waste services division
County of Wellington Administration Centre. Keegan Kozolanka/GuelphToday file photo

COUNT OF WELLINGTON – A report to the solid waste services committee shows a negative year-end projection variance of around $200,000 for that division.

The report, which was presented at a Tuesday morning meeting, looked at data up to May 31 to determine where they stand in regards to the budget. The projected variance in the report is between $170,000 to $220,000 or approximately three per cent of the $7.3 million budget. 

COVID-19 has had direct impacts to revenue in both positive and negative ways. Ken DeHart, county treasurer said to the committee that tipping-fees at waste facilities are down significantly because they were closed for two months. 

The report says staff are projecting a loss of $300,000 from waste sites but this normally picks-up in the summer with construction and renovation activities. 

On the other hand, the county encouraged residents to use curbside pick-up, which requires buying the county’s user-pay bags. The report says bag sales are up nearly $400,000 than what would normally be expected. The year-end projection is likely closer to $300,000 because the waste sites re-opened. 

The two seem to balance each other out but DeHart said this isn’t the case when you take a closer-look. 

“When we examine the financial statements a bit more, it’s not a perfect offset because there are costs associated with the bag sales,” DeHart said to the committee. “We have to actually purchase the bags so the bag purchases themselves are exceeding our budget. We’re projecting it to exceed it by $100,000.”

Another complicated factor is the oil-price downturn during the pandemic. Lower fuel prices have saved the solid waste services division up to $40,000 according to the report. This has also driven down the price of plastics and therefore hurting revenue from the blue box program up to a projected $120,000. 

Councillor Diane Ballantyne commented they should be rethinking how the county views plastics. 

“I think it’s important as a county … that we rethink the concept of profit or sales from plastics and shift to action and messaging about its environmental damage,” Ballantyne said to the committee. “I feel that we run the risk of dragging our heels on something incredibly important which is reducing plastic waste because we view or rely on it as a revenue stream.”

Staff also recommended closing a methane system study at the Riverstown waste facility and reallocating $60,000 earmarked for the project back to reserves. 

Overall, DeHart said in his report that revenues for the rest of the year can be hard to forecast but overall COVID-19 has negatively impacted the solid waste services division budget.

“It’s still early to have a lot of confidence in a year-end projection but we are looking at a negative variance this year in solid waste anywhere between $170,000 and $220,000,” DeHart said to the committee.

The committee accepted the report and closed the Riverstown methane study.