Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie says he’s very pleased with $4 billion in COVID-19 relief funding for Ontario municipalities from the provincial and federal governments.
Guthrie chairs the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario and has been calling for emergency funding from the upper levels of government since April.
Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday that the province would contribute $1.22 billion and Ottawa would chip in $777 million. Another $2 billion for transit funding is to be split between the two governments.
Guthrie pointed out that $4 billion is what Ontario municipalities had been asking for.
“It’s really good funding and we thank the governments for stepping up,” Guthrie said. “We don’t have all the details, first on how much we’re getting nor the mechanism on how it’s coming to us.”
Those details are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks, Guthrie added.
Guthrie had warned of layoffs, property tax increases and service cuts if the funding did not come down the pipe. He said Monday’s announcement is a good first step.
The pandemic has put Guelph about $12 million in the hole after adding up lost revenues and additional costs and Guthrie noted that whatever funding the city gets will only help cover this year’s costs.
Under provincial legislation, municipalities are not permitted to run budget deficits by the end of the year.
But Guthrie warned that there are tough decisions on the horizon when it comes to preparing next year’s budget.
“Future decisions about operating costs, capital projects and service delivery needs to be on the table for some tough decisions for us to make,” he said.
Guthrie said he’s striving for a zero per cent increase to its 2021 budget and keeping tax increases at the bare minimum.
On the subject of using the city’s tax reserves, Guthrie said they will have to do that even with the government funding and it should be on the table for budget deliberations.
“Those reserves are only there because taxpayers paid for it anyway — it’s their money,” he said. “I believe it’s something council needs to take a serious look at.”
Guthrie also strongly urged residents to get involved in the upcoming budget deliberations in the fall given the tough decisions that are coming.
“We need feedback and guidance from what the public is looking for,” he said. “Whether it’s good or bad, we want it all.”View link »