The Ontario government reissued its penny-pinching plea to municipalities and district school boards on Friday.
During a news conference in London, Ont., Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton reiterated the Doug Ford government’s desire to see cities and schools save four cents on every dollar spent.
The conference comes on the heels of the provincially-backed Audit and Accountability Fund, which would provide $7.35 million to help cities and school boards find efficiencies.
“The $7.35 million is to be shared amongst large urban municipalities to help them with their costs of doing a line-by-line [review],” McNaughton said.
“We spent $500,000 as a province doing ours — in fact, I actually think it was a bit less than that. So we think this can be done efficiently and will be very effective in finding some savings.”
WATCH: Premier Ford announces $7.35 million to encourage budget savings
Speaking to London’s finances, McNaughton acknowledged that while the city is “well-managed,” there are still some savings to be had.
“They are spending $950 million every single year… I think it’s reasonable to ask them to find some savings this year.”
McNaughton added that London has $700,000 in unpaid parking fines, the collection of which could be used as a potential savings solution.
For Josh Morgan, Ward 7 councillor and London’s budget chair, the announcement misses the mark.
Along with dismissing London’s ongoing fiscal responsibility, Morgan said that collecting parking fines can’t serve as viable efficiency.
“Those tickets are one-time revenues, so that’s more of a cashflow than it is a permanent efficiencies issue,” Morgan said.
Speaking to the city’s penny-pinching efforts, Morgan added that an aggressive service review that started in 2015 has already yielded millions in permanent savings for the London.
“What we’ve also done is pay down our debt by over $30 million or 10 per cent over the last multi-year budget, and we’re saving well, well over a million dollars a year in service costs.”
Morgan’s comments were echoed by Ward 11 Coun. Stephen Turner, who took to Twitter to point out what he saw as hypocrisy in Friday’s announcement.
A report from city staff says the Ontario budget could leave a $4 million impact on London’s 2019 budget year.
While McNaughton urged cities to work together with the provincial government on Friday, Morgan says cities are being left to carry the financial load.
“At some point you’re going to run up against a wall of not being to find the types and levels of savings you need to create those efficiencies, and you’re going to have to look at service reductions or service cuts,” Morgan said.
“Especially when on top of all this, the province is adding costs to municipalities.”
London’s corporate services committee will have a chance to go over potential budget impacts during its meeting on Tuesday.
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