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Toronto OKs $3.1M budget

BUDGET APPROVED — Toronto Council approved a $3.1 million budget Monday for the city’s general fund for the 2021 fiscal year. Though they are still adjusting from the loss in revenue spurred by the pandemic, city officials are hoping for a more stable new fiscal year. (Photo by Warren Scott)

TORONTO — While state-ordered closings spurred by the pandemic resulted in a significant drop in revenue, city officials are hoping for fiscal stability in 2021.

On Monday Toronto Council approved a $3.1 million budget for the city’s general fund, with budgets for the city’s water and sewer funds determined separately.

City Auditor Lisa Bauman noted the budget reflects 3 percent raises for the city’s police and firefighters and a slight increase to the city’s self-funded healthcare coverage spurred by a higher number of claims in the current year.

But overall it’s not significantly different from the previous year’s budget, as she and other city officials hope for a steadier flow of revenue in the coming fiscal year.

Mayor John Parker said the city expects to lose between $150,000 and $225,000 in revenue as a result of the pandemic.

He said while some of that was from local businesses that have since reopened, the city also saw a drop in income tax collected for residents within and outside the city who have been laid off.

“We still have major businesses with layoffs,” Parker said.

He said to offset that loss, department heads are spending cautiously, delaying the purchase of new equipment and employing city crews instead of independent contractors when possible.

“Hopefully we can find funding through grants and other programs for future projects,” Parker added.

He said he hopes the federal government will release another round of relief funds for more general purposes.

The city was awarded $115,000 through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act but it was to be used for expenses related to the coronavirus, such as personal protective equipment, cleaning products and wages for additional hours put in by staff.

Passage of the budget followed a meeting of the city’s finance committee where department heads discussed upcoming expenses.

Joe Adamovich, the city’s wastewater superintendent, said he received an estimate of $4,500 to seal the sewer plant’s parking lot and estimates totaling about $22,000 to seal and restripe the City Building’s parking lot and the city’s basketball and tennis courts.

First Ward Councilman Bob Bertram said the east end of Franklin Street is in much need of resurfacing.

Rod Henry, the city’s building maintenance and recreation director, advised a boiler at the city’s new recreation center needs replaced at a cost of about $192,000.

Councilman at large G.R. Dickinson said city officials were aware of the boiler issue when the building, which was the former Karaffa Elementary School, was transferred to the city by the Toronto school board.

He said the agreement calls for the board, which still uses the building for pre-school classes, to contribute to such costs.

Plans were made to invite Superintendent Maureen Taggart to the recreation committee’s next meeting to discuss the matter.

Henry noted that unlike the old recreation center in the former Roosevelt School, plans for the new center call for it to be open year-round, and staff schedules will need to reflect that.

He said the center has generated revenue in the form of rentals for weekend parties there.

Also on Monday:

¯ Bertram said he consulted an official from the Census Bureau who advised census workers going door to door to gather information from non-respondents in this region have had a 98 percent success rate.

Upon hearing 71.8 percent of Torontoans had responded to the survey by mail, phone or internet, Bertram had raised concern that an inaccurate count could result in Toronto losing its status as a city.

Under state code, it must have 5,000 people to be classified as such.

Bertram said after hearing from the Census official, “I feel pretty confident they’re going to get a good count.”

But he and other city officials stressed the need for all residents who haven’t responded to do so by Wednesday, which is the census’ deadline.

The Census Bureau has advised residents may complete a short survey, the answers of which are kept confidential, by going to the bureau’s website at 2020census.gov or calling (844) 330-2020 if they speak English.

¯ Council granted a request for $1,500 from the Toronto American Legion Post for U.S. flags to be placed on veterans’ graves and used for other occasions.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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