London expecting $900k less in 2019 funding after province backtracks on budget cuts

Though the City of London will see lighter funding losses now that the Ontario government has walked back its budget cuts, the municipality will still take a hit. (Matthew Trevithick/AM980)

While municipalities across Ontario have been given a bit of breathing room in their budgets thanks to an about-face from the province, the City of London is still expecting $900,000 less in funding from the province this year.

The provincial government had retroactively passed some 2019 costs down to municipalities, but after much pushback, Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday that his government would walk back plans to slash funding to municipalities.

READ MORE: Ontario government sticks City of London with $4M bill for public services

However, it’s not a complete reversal of the estimated $4 million in budget cuts the City of London had previously anticipated.

City treasurer Anna Lisa Barbon estimates that around $3.1 million of the previous budget cuts will be rolled back.

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“We’re still waiting for clarification but we do not believe it’s the full $4 million. It’s only the changes with respect to child care, public health as well as (emergency medical services), which is approximately $3.1 million of the $4 million,” Barbon told the city’s corporate services committee on Tuesday.

“Certainly, the biggest piece is that the more information we can receive in advance to identify what the impacts will be starting in 2020, (that) will certainly very much help us in the development of our multi-year budget.”

READ MORE: Potential impacts unclear for London despite Ontario cancelling retroactive budget cuts to municipalities

A report, which was published prior to Monday’s reversal announcement, noted the potential for savings in the city budget depending on other provincial government changes, including money that could be saved thanks to a plan that would see the Middlesex-London Health Unit merge with four other regional health units.

“If you have a broader service and there is, potentially, economies of scale … at some point, our share, even though it has gone up, we might realize some benefits from that in the long run,” said Barbon.

The city treasurer also touched upon possible changes to conservation authorities.

“There’s a number of things in the registry right now that the province is actually looking at changing and no longer having (conservation authorities) do in the future,” Barbon said. “If that were to come to fruition, again, that would be something that we pay for today that we may no longer be obligated.”

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Barbon stressed that at this point, there is a great deal of information that is unknown.

The report, endorsed by the corporate services committee, directs city staff to continue advocacy efforts “to inform the provincial government of the potential impacts” of funding changes and to work with the province to find solutions and to provide enough time to allow municipalities “to plan for changes prior to implementation.”

—With files from 980 CFPL’s Andrew Graham and Devon Peacock

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