Toronto City Council met yesterday by video conference for the first time in the City’s history, amending Procedural By-laws to facilitate electronic meetings of Council and Committees during a state of emergency in order to maintain regular City business. City Council also authorized an extension of the Mayor’s delegated authority and extension of the City’s Physical Distancing By-laws until the pandemic has been declared as terminated.
Moving forward, during electronic meetings, members of the public will be able to submit written submissions and the Clerk’s Office is exploring additional options for public deputations via telephone or through WebEx, similar to how other municipal jurisdictions, across the country are conducting public engagement. All votes will be recorded and posted for public record. The City will continue to follow the guidance of Toronto Public Health and only consider organizing in-person meetings with Councillors (at an appropriate distance) once Provincial restrictions on gatherings are eased and it is safe to do so.
Numerous Councillors expressed frustration over the need for an accelerated response to the growing bottleneck of regular business. City staff are in the midst of reviewing and prioritizing, staffing levels in order to host meetings and matters to be included on future meeting agendas – whether virtual or otherwise, and will further provide a report to the next meeting of City Council on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the City Planning application process and issuance of building permits.
2020 City Budget Pressures
The City of Toronto has incurred an estimated $260 million financial pressure and impact of COVID-19 related costs and revenue losses, and are forecasting a 2020 budget impact of $1.5-$2.8 billion based on the recovery time frame. The City continues to receive development charges and MLTT payments through electronic means, and property tax collection will begin its auto withdrawal process starting in June 2020.
For reference, the existing interim bill payment due dates for the tax deferrals for residents and businesses are set out below for each of the property tax accounts:
As well, the existing final bill payment due dates for the tax deferrals for residents and businesses are as follows for each of the property tax accounts:
Budget Chair Crawford said that balancing the Budget will not happen without the significant support of other levels of government. City staff are collaborating with other GTHA municipalities as well as their Federal and Provincial counterparts with respect to funding solutions, and are further reviewing the 2021 Budget forecast for pressures.
Ramping Up Online City Services & Building Permits
Staff are exploring ways to digitize business and expand online services offered by the City of Toronto, considering approximately 10-15% of services are currently accessible online.
With respect to building permits, Toronto Building is looking to facilitate and accelerate issuing building permits soon. Electronic submission of new applications has been opened and within the next couple of weeks, Toronto Building staff will be starting to process those new applications, including some smaller commercial projects. However, staff have also identified and are prioritizing commercial applications that support the economic recovery effort once the application process is fully operational.
Within the next 30 days, Mayor Tory will call a Special meeting of City Council to consider outstanding and urgent new business. At that meeting, City Manager Chris Murray will report on draft recovery strategies. Toronto’s recovery and rebuilding measures will be a phased and collaborative approach, however details are fluid and still largely being determined.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out should you have any questions or would like to present a post-COVID initiative.