Councillor concerned about lack of disclosure over transit funding shortfall
Published Thursday, July 18, 2019 6:49PM EDT
Who knew about the city hall's massive transit funding shortfall, and when did they know?
London city Councillor Shawn Lewis says he only found out earlier this week.
"As a councillor I found out through the media, and that is not how I feel I should be finding out.”
But on Wednesday, Mayor Ed Holder said the funding shortfall became public on June 25.
"We knew that when the provincial government made its announcement at the London Transit Commission that the amount that they declared was a little bit less than what we had submitted in terms of the full project.”
Last month Ontario's infrastructure minister announced London would receive $103.5 million in provincial funding for 10 transit projects including three Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes.
But what wasn’t explained to those in attendance, is that the figure is $21.5 million less than city hall requested.
A corresponding decrease in federal funding could require city hall to fill a funding gap of about a $50 million.
City Treasurer Anna Lisa Barbon explains that senior levels of government aren't considering land acquisition costs as part of city hall's contribution to the three-way funding agreement.
"Those land costs are a municipal share that the city is going to pay for regardless, the hope is that the province would have recognized that the city is contributing a significant part of the project that they are not choosing to recognize.”
Lewis adds that in the rush to meet Holder's 60-day deadline to choose projects and apply for funding, council received very little financial information.
Total project costs included in the report were clearly described as “estimates."
“I think that this should have been information council had before we voted on these projects. As you will recall we didn't have the full business cases when council was asked to pick the projects to submit for funding approval.”
Barbon says negotiations continue with the senior governments and city hall won't know the size of the funding shortfall until the federal funding review is finished.
“If there is a shortfall, because its capital, a one-time cost, and it’s over a number of years, so it gives us lots of flexibility to look at potential options to be able to mitigate it.”
Those funding sources to fill the funding gap include development charges on new construction, dipping into taxpayer-funded reserve funds, pay-as-you-go financing from property taxes and debt.