THUNDER BAY – City officials now have reason to believe they will still be getting a similar amount of money as last year through a key provincial fund.
Thunder Bay mayor Bill Mauro and city manager Norm Gale on Friday confirmed they had received a letter from Finance Minister Vic Fedeli earlier this week, providing an update on the Progressive Conservative provincial government's financial support to cities and towns through the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund.
“It’s not definite but it sounds optimistic,” Mauro said. “We don’t know for sure yet, but yes, Minister Fedeli sent a letter to heads of council across Ontario and it sounds like it’s going to be somewhere in the neighbourhood similar to what we received last year.”
Mauro and Gale said they expect to receive confirmation of the specific amount in March.
The fund, which was $510 million in 2018, is the province’s main general financial assistance program for municipalities. The allocation formula has multiple components, including specific categories for northern and rural municipalities.
The province late last year notified municipalities that it would be reviewing the program, leading to the possibility that the level of funding could be cut.
Fedeli, while in Thunder Bay last week, would not commit to whether the same level of funding support would be maintained.
The city’s budget planning forecasted a nearly $1-million reduction to the amount received through the fund compared to 2018. City administration had been expecting to get $19.5 million, down from $20.4 million the previous year.
“We’re positioned well,” Mauro said. “We prudently built in some room in the budget in case there was a significant reduction in the OMPF allocation. If that does not occur, if there is not a significant reduction, then we obviously have some room and can make decisions relative to the amount of money we built in.”
Gale said the partnership fund is vitally important for the city.
“Those $20 million go into funding the operations, which are the services we provide and the infrastructure we provide,” Gale said. “It is a sizeable portion of our operating budget.”