Mississauga considering raising transit fares and other fees to cope with COVID-19 downturn

 

Mississauga, which is still facing a COVID-19-related deficit even after receiving $46 million in help from the federal and provincial governments, recently announced that it might have to hike some fees and charges in order to cope with the financial fallout of the pandemic and associated lockdown. 

In a statement posted to her website in August 2020, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the additional funding from higher levels of government would go towards tackling the city's deficit, which a recent budget report estimates to be around $55.4 million (ranging from $46.6 million in a best-case scenario to $66 million in a worst-case scenario). 

On Oct. 7, the city's budget committee announced that it's suggesting new and increased fees and charges for 2021 for transit fares, fire and emergency services, planning processing, library, culture programs and rental rates, transportation and works, recreation programs and rental rates, fees for parks, forestry and environment services and fees for general administrative services provided across departments. 

The proposed fees and charges will be presented to council for approval on Oct. 14, 2020. 

The budget report says that city staff have implemented other measures to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 where possible, including temporarily layin off staff members, implementing a hiring freeze and cutting discretionary spending. 

"Proactive measures such as deferral of some 2020 capital projects and deferral of payments to the Region [of Peel] and school boards have ensured that the city continues to have positive cash balances," the report reads. 

But while fees and fares could rise in response to Mississauga's financial situation, the city projecting a property tax increase that's lower than the 3.24 per cent increase it was suggesting earlier this year. 

"The revenue from the fees and charges will alleviate some pressures on the property tax rate in 2021," said Gary Kent, Commissioner of Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer, in a statement. 

"Community and financial recovery is a priority going forward and we are taking the steps necessary to balance offering services with the property tax increase. We continue to encourage public participation and input into our budget process, and we will continue to work with our Council to achieve a budget that meets our city's needs."

The city says recreation fees could increase three per cent, adding that some programs, such as advanced aquatics leadership courses, could see an above-average increase due to increased operating costs and certification fees.

As far as transit fares go, the report says that U-Pass (UTM Student pass) fees will increase as per contract and charter service rates will be adjusted for inflation. 

In addition, MiWay has introduced two new fees to offset the costs of restoration of on-street transit infrastructure due to road construction and closures. A Transitway Access Permit Fee of $250 per application and a MiWay Stop Infrastructure permit review fee of $400 per stop location have been added.

The report says that MiWay is recommending no increase to regular fares in 2021. 

The next Budget Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. 

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Cover photo courtesy of @idris.yyz

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