Between a city operational surplus of $14.7 Million and another $10 Million saved on the water and wastewater budget, Hamilton has nearly $25 Million in an unexpected windfall. But the city is unable to use all of the money to pay for expected COVID costs which are expected to total $23 Million by the end of May. Most of the $15 Million will go to the tax stabilization fund –a favourite go-to pot of money council uses to meet unexpected spending initiatives. The stabilization fund was down to $20 Million.
The city does not want to show a lot of extra cash at the moment because it is hoping for a bailout from the federal government. If Hamilton doesn’t get money from the provincial and federal governments, Hamilton Treasurer Mike Zegarac said, property taxpayers would face a one-time hike of seven per cent.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he anticipates the federal and provincial governments will pitch in to help at some point. He’s been lobbying through the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said Wednesday that the province is working with municipalities “to understand their needs and the issues they face in meeting their budgeted expenses.” It’s working with the federal government on this too, the ministry said.
In an email, it pointed to an additional $200 million put into local social services relief funding, and changes to the Municipal Emergency Act that allow councils and committees to meet electronically. Otherwise, it said, municipalities should track their COVID-19 costs.
Both Hamilton Police Service and the Hamilton Public Library had money left over in 2019. For police, that equalled $1,425,221. The police service gets to keep that money, Zegarac said, and will put some into its own tax stabilization reserve, and spend the rest on equipment costs.
The $10 Million surplus in water and waste water will likewise be placed into water and wastewater
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