Windsor

Government funding only way to 'fill the void' of Windsor's $30M deficit, mayor tells standing committee

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens spoke before a provincial committee Tuesday, explaining to MPPs that the only way for the city to overcome its multi-million dollar deficit is through funding from both provincial and federal levels of government. 

Drew Dilkens says tax increases too significant to make up for losses

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens spoke before the provincial standing committee on finance and economic affairs, explaining the need for government funding to make up for the city's multi-million dollar deficit. (Vince Robinet/CBC)

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens spoke before a provincial committee Tuesday, explaining to MPPs that the only way for the city to overcome its multi-million dollar deficit is through funding from both provincial and federal levels of government. 

Dilkens told Ontario's standing committee on finance and economic affairs that Windsor's projected $29.7 million deficit for 2020 cannot be mitigated without substantial tax increases which are not practical, and cuts to vital infrastructure projects. 

He added that the city's expenditures made over the course of the pandemic were necessary.

"We have been prudent, we have been smart, we have acted responsibly," Dilkens said in a statement he read before the committee. 

"There is no practical way to fund this level of deficit through a property tax. The only way to fill this void is with the full support of both the federal and provincial governments – both of which have a lower cost of borrowing than municipalities."

The mayor explained to the committee the loss of revenue, like from Caesars Windsor, has been detrimental to the city's budget. He says Windsor will lose $12 million due to the closure of the casino which equates to a three per cent tax increase. 

"It's significant and it's not something we hope to get into," Dilkens said. 

Last month, the federal government announced it would provide $14 billion to the provinces and territories to help "safely and carefully" reopen their economies.

"Provinces and territories are facing different realities, so flexibility will be important, but here's the bottom line: For seniors and people who need extra support, for kids and workers — this plan is here for you," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time.

Some of that money was meant to help provinces and territories improve the state of long-term care, and to help municipalities continue providing core public services such as transit.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at the time that the move is a "start," but that $14 billion falls far short of what's required to address the "massive need" in the province. Ford has repeatedly spoken about the need for federal funding at his daily press conferences.

"The reality is we have a $23 billion problem in Ontario, and $14 billion for all of Canada ... just won't cut it," he said.

Dilkens said both levels of government need to outline what they will offer moving forward as the city begins planning their 2021 budget. 

"There are significant costs associated with maintaining some of the PPE and social distance requirements associated with the current post-pandemic budget process," he said. "No function of municipal services are exempt from these costs."

The mayor said to be able to offer "full recovery" to people across the city, he needs to know what is on the table from government. 

"I want to be absolutely clear, the pathway to economic recovery runs through the cities and towns across the province," he said. 

With files from Adam Carter

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