Pandemic costs to leave $94M hole in City of Toronto budget by year’s end, new report warns

Pandemic-related expenses will leave the City of Toronto with a $94-million budget shortfall by the end of the year, a new report to Mayor John Tory’s executive committee says.

And that financial hole could “increase accordingly” if ways to stop the bleeding aren’t found, chief financial officer Heather Taylor wrote in her report, which will be presented to the committee Thursday.

But Tory said he’s confident the federal and provincial governments will step up to cover the shortfall, most of which — about $74 million —  is due to losses at the TTC. 

Ridership and revenues plummeted during the worst of the pandemic, Tory said.

“With respect to the re-elected government in Ottawa, they are a government that gets cities,” Tory said.

“They get the fact that a big city like Toronto cannot operate on some kind of a transit system that is cut in half because of the fact that ridership has slowed down.”

The report is a review of how closely spending and revenues are matching the $14-billion operating budget passed by council in February.

Coun. Gary Crawford, the mayor’s budget chief, says the city could dip into next year’s capital budget to make up the shortfall, a move that could affect some transit and road projects. (CBC)

Both Tory and budget chief Coun. Gary Crawford also praised the provincial government for its willingness to help the city cover its COVID-related costs.

“We’re quite confident that both levels of government will support us,” Crawford said. But if that funding doesn’t materialize, he said the city will be able to make up the deficit by borrowing from next year’s capital budget — a move that could see some upcoming projects delayed or abandoned.

No service cuts, mayor says

The city’s capital budget covers one-time physical costs, like the building of community centres, bridges and roads.

Crawford said it’s too early to say which of those projects could be affected. The 2022 budget discussions begin in November.

Whatever happens with funding from other levels of government, Tory said the shortfall won’t be made up by cutting services, or increasing property taxes beyond the rate of inflation.

“This is a time, during a pandemic, when people need the services the city has to offer,” he said.  

Tory said city staff will also “continue what have been heroic efforts made by our public servants in constraining expenditures.”

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