Since the pandemic started, the City has had to navigate financial uncertainty, redeploy hundreds of staff, and has seen a significant increase in the demand for mental health supports, a City report highlights.
In a report to the City’s General Issues Committee Wednesday in advance of final budget deliberations, members of Council were also advised of the pandemic’s impact on City services, capital projects and payroll.
In addition to forgoing revenue due to service impacts such as reduced transit ridership and recreation centre closures, the City also incurred additional costs related to the pandemic for personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, workplace modifications and increased investments to support people experiencing homelessness.
To accommodate for lost revenues, increased costs and uncertainly early in the pandemic that saw a forecasted City deficit of between $60 and $100 million, the City engaged in a number of proactive cost-saving measures to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the municipal budget.
Cost-saving measures employed by the City included placing more than 1,300 part-time and casual staff on Declared Emergency Leave, delaying more than $29 million in capital projects and placing $1.1 million in a COVID capital reserve.
The pandemic also resulted in a 2.3 per cent increase in overtime compared to 2019 for a total cost of $580,000, which is cost recoverable from the more than $160 million in pandemic support funding provided to the City of Hamilton by the federal and provincial governments. The City also saw a 37 per cent increase in unused vacation in 2020 that has been carried over to 2021 (at a potential cost of $1.83 million).
More than 22 per cent of City staff, approximately 1,800 people, are currently working from home with the majority of staff working in their conventional, modified or redeployed roles.
The City has seen a significant increase in employees accessing wellness programs it offers, including a 530 per cent increase in staff accessing mental health supports and a 244 per cent increase in staff seeking guidance in stress management.
Today’s Provincial budget announced another$1 Billion in aid to municipalities, which if it isn’t a re-announcement would result in about $40 Million for Hamilton on a straight population ratio baseis.