City of Toronto releases update on financial impacts of COVID-19

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The City of Toronto staff will be presenting the five-month variance report to the Executive Committee for consideration next week, about the experienced and anticipated financial impacts of COVID-19, including mitigation options.

The report identifies a financial impact of $1.9 billion by the end of 2020, prior to any offsets through mitigation strategies including spending and workforce restraints. With these mitigation strategies in place, the City projects a reduced total year-end shortfall of $1.35 billion.

Mayor John Tory and budget chief Gary Crawford addressed the report Tuesday morning, highlighting the $513.7 million in mitigation strategies the City is undertaking and stressing the need for emergency financial support for Toronto and other municipalities from the federal and provincial governments.

“The City staff report released today makes clear the stark reality we are facing and the measures we have taken to save what we can. I look forward to working with my council colleagues to review this report and to make it clear – as a strong and united council – that we need support from the other governments and we need it now,” Tory said.

Since the pandemic began in mid-March large Canadian municipalities and municipalities across the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area have been experiencing significant financial impacts in the form of both added costs and revenue losses as a direct result of COVID-19.

Mitigation strategies include $513.7 million in anticipated cost savings from a combination of workforce restraints, spending constraints and cost avoidance, including emergency layoffs, decreased TTC operating costs and matching service capacity to demand.

An additional $34.1 million is also available from favourable budget variance within Municipal Land Transfer Tax revenues from January 1 to March 31, prior to COVID-19 impacts.

Toronto is requesting relief funding from the federal and provincial governments to offset the cumulative financial impact to expenditures and revenues.

The city manager will be reporting to Council later this month and again in September on further options if municipalities do not receive adequate financial support from other levels of government.

In April, council reported financial pressure estimated at $65 million per week due to the pandemic. The pressure is driven by decreased TTC and other revenues, coupled with increased costs. Revenues are decreased due to closures, decreased transit ridership and decreased demands for other City services, and increased costs are stemming from COVID-19 related needs, like additional personal protective equipment supplies, cleaning, additional shelter space, and overtime.

“These unprecedented financial circumstances require unprecedented action from the federal and provincial governments,” Tory said. “We remain hopeful a federal-provincial funding agreement to support municipalities can be reached to avoid devastating cuts to frontline services or unaffordable property tax increases.”

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