Provincial Funding Changes and the Road Ahead
I was pleased to hear the Premier’s announcement that provincial funding reductions for municipalities would be reversed for this year. My colleagues from cities across the province were united in our view that cuts to our current budgets would hurt frontline services that our residents depend on. I appreciate that the provincial government listened to our concerns, and is allowing more time to plan and to consult with municipalities on funding changes for future years.
The province asked municipalities to find efficiencies, and frankly I agree with this. All levels of government should work continually to improve their services and programs and find better value for existing tax dollars. In Kingston, we’ve been taking that approach for a number of years. As long as I’ve been Mayor, every annual budget approved by City Council has required city staff to look for savings of at least $1 million, and often much more, in order to hold increases in property taxes at less than inflation for city operations. We’re going to follow the same approach in the years ahead, looking for ways to reduce administrative overhead, reduce energy consumption in City facilities, reduce fuel costs by switching to more electric vehicles and more. A new report from the City Treasurer shows that Kingston was able to achieve a surplus of $4 million in 2018, more evidence that our municipality is working hard every day to save money, while at the same time improving services for our residents.
I understand there’s a fiscal deficit at the provincial level and that the government is committed to addressing it, so let’s work together. I welcome a chance to sit down with provincial representatives to work out a plan. If the province is willing to consult with us, we will commit to bringing ideas and suggestions that could save both the province and the city dollars. For example, there are savings to be realized by cutting the red tape that municipalities go through when dealing with provincial regulations. By working together I believe we can address current fiscal challenges in ways that avoid negative impacts to frontline services.