Barrie’s $1.3 million in additional Safe Restart funding could help make a dent in the 2021 budget

Funding announced Wednesday expected to help cut down municipal deficits in 2021

Nearly $700 million in funding is being divvied up among the 444 municipalities across Ontario in the hopes of cutting down any deficits carried over into 2021.

Of the $695 million in Safe Restart Agreement funding announced on Wednesday, the City of Barrie will receive just over $1.3 million. With the city in the midst of its budget preparation process, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman says the timing is pretty good. “Obviously, the impacts of COVID are going to extend into 2021,” Lehman told Barrie 360 following the announcement. “We’re very concerned about that, because the moment there’s a tax increase in the draft budget that’s been presented by staff. So this will help a lot.”

Whether the $1.3 million will be enough to avoid carrying over a deficit, Mayor Lehman isn’t quite sure yet; there’s still too much in flux. “Probably not by itself,” he said. “I think that the issue really is how quickly will our services need to return to normal, what additional costs are we going to have as a result of the second wave. The second wave is getting worse and that is going to drive up costs for sure.”

“For example: transit ridership, very tough to forecast,” he added. “We know we’ll have a bad year, but we have no idea how bad until we see how things progress in 2021.”

Despite so much still being up in the air, Lehman is at least pleased to see cooperation going on. “This is one of those examples of where all three levels of government are working together very well. And that’s, I think, what everybody wants to see during COVID.”

“All levels of government must work together to respond to this pandemic and ensure a strong economic recovery,” said Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin. “Municipalities have told the province that they require financial assistance to help them address their individual budgetary needs to reflect the realities of COVID-19.

“Keeping taxes lower during uncertain times means more stability. More time to recover and build. It means local businesses will be able to keep the doors open and lights on,” said Doug Downey, MPP for Barrie–Springwater–Oro-Medonte.

From the second round of Safe Restart Agreement funding, the County of Simcoe will receive $6,170,000 while the town of Innisfil is set to receive $880,000. Oro-Medonte will get $116,000 and Springwater Township’s share will total $98,000.