Federal funding to boost Toronto

FINANCIAL MATTERS AT HAND — The receipt of federal pandemic relief funds was among matters before Toronto Council on Monday. -- Warren Scott

TORONTO — Like many communities, the city of Toronto experienced a loss in revenue when the pandemic, including the temporary closing of all businesses not deemed essential, left many without work or working fewer hours.

Mayor John Parker said a decline in revenue from the city’s wage tax is largely responsible for the loss of about 20 percent of $13 million allotted for the city’s general fund and water and sewer departments.

Council President Frank McEwen noted the city also had waived the payment of water, sewer and garbage bills for about two months for individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic.

Parker said even several months since then, the city’s general fund is at about $4.8 million when it normally would be around $7 million at this time.

But Parker said he expects a turnaround beginning next month. He added the city will be able to recoup lost revenue from about $500,000 in federal funds awarded through the American Rescue Plan.

On Monday, Toronto Council approved the establishment of a separate fund for the money, as required under the act after Parker advised the city will receive its first half in the near future.

He and McEwen said the funds also may be used to pursue projects put on hold when ongoing revenue for day-to-day operations was uncertain.

Parker said such projects could include water or sewer line replacements and street paving, adding the latter may be pursued as early as this fall.

He praised City Auditor Lisa Bauman and council’s finance committee for weathering the storm wrought by the pandemic.

In related business, Councilman at large G.R. Dickinson announced the finance committee, which he chairs, will meet at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Municipal Building.

In other business:

• The proposed donation of a vacant lot in the Wallace Heights area to the city was referred to the park and recreation committee because its owner would like it to be used to create a new playground.

McEwen said the panel is expected to mull the cost to install and maintain the proposed playground.

• Fourth Ward Councilman Greg Herrick said the U.S. Census Bureau is expected to release by Aug. 16 information affecting the redistricting of state legislative and congressional lines and the same data should cover municipal populations.

Fifth Ward Councilman Bob Bertram had expressed concern earlier about whether Toronto’s population might dip below the 5,000 required for its classification as a city.


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