The City of Toronto continues to monitor the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the municipal budget. Next week, City staff will present a report to City Council to address the experienced and anticipated financial impacts of the pandemic and propose options for mitigation.
Since the pandemic began in mid-March, the City of Toronto, consistent with other large Canadian municipalities and municipalities across the GTHA, has experienced significant financial impacts in the form of both added costs and revenue losses as a direct result of COVID-19.
The City anticipates a financial impact of $1.9 billion for tax-supported programs by the end of 2020, prior to any offsets through mitigation strategies. With mitigation strategies in place, the City projects a reduced total year-end shortfall of $1.35 billion. In addition, staff are also estimating a preliminary 2021 Operating Budget pressure of nearly $1.5 billion.
A report to City Council released Friday notes mitigation strategies include $513.7 million in anticipated cost savings from 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 in added offsets is also available from budget variance.
The City continues to provide essential and critical services in the face of unprecedented financial pressures, which requires difficult decisions, including decisions related to employee compensation and benefits. To date, workforce restraints have produced $48 million in savings and are expected to total $152 million by year-end. Initiatives implemented so far include redeployment of staff to critical and essential service areas, implementing Emergency Leave for staff unable to provide service or work remotely, seasonal and part-time staff layoffs, a hiring slowdown and mandating vacation utilization.
The City is considering a number of additional cost containment measures to address the financial shortfall. The report to Council includes further staff-related recommendations that are anticipated to yield additional savings beginning in 2021. These include a Voluntary Separation Program for those who are eligible to retire with an unreduced pension and cancelling the non-union Pay for Performance program for 2020 and 2021 and the cost of living salary increases for 2020 for non-union/management staff.
By taking immediate action, the City hopes to be in a stronger position to confront current and future financial challenges that have resulted from the emergency response to COVID-19 and to protect our ability to continue to deliver vital services.
Led by the Mayor, the City continues to engage with the federal and provincial governments to request relief funding to offset the cumulative financial impact to City expenditures and revenues. On July 16, the Government of Canada announced the Safe Restart Agreement, which will help get funding to municipalities so they can deliver essential services that Canadians rely on every day. The City expects to receive details of this agreement in the coming weeks.
The Report on the City’s Response to COVID-19 and Financial Impacts is available on the City’s website.
More information about the City’s response to COVID-19 is available at toronto.ca/covid-19.
“It remains essential that while we continue to manage the City’s emergency response to COVID-19, we also ensure that impacts to Toronto’s strong pre-crisis financial position are addressed. The City continues to provide essential and critical services in the face of unprecedented challenges, and this requires difficult decisions. We have a responsibility to our residents to be financially accountable – this is true at all times, but even more so now. The City continues to mobilize and adapt to the emerging situation, and we are taking action to address our financial situation and our provincial and federal partners have made it clear they are committed to financially assist the City in continuing to deliver essential services that Torontonians rely on.”
– Mayor John Tory
“None of these difficult decisions were made lightly and we have considered and continue to consider many options. Our hope is that by taking these measures now, we will be in a stronger position to confront the financial pressures that have resulted from our response to the COVID-19 emergency. I want to thank City staff for their continued commitment, dedication and support as we work through these challenges together, and continue to provide valuable programs and services to our residents.”
– Chris Murray, City Manager
Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.