The 2019 budget approved last week by City Council contained one big, scary unknown.
No one knew for sure how much money to expect this year from the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF), which handed over $15,455,200 to the city last year.
Four days before Christmas, the province's new Progressive Conservative government had served notice that its 2019 contribution would be reduced by an unspecified amount.
That was a sharp departure from the past, when OMPF allocations were announced before the end of the previous fiscal year to help municipalities with their budget planning.
Municipalities howled in protest.
Here in the Sault, city staff and politicians guessed Premier Doug Ford wouldn't do it.
They guessed this year's contribution would be same as last year's, and that's the number they snapped into their budget calculations.
And they guessed right.
City Hall announced Thursday that it had received confirmation our 2019 OMPF grant will be consistent with 2018 levels.
"I’m pleased to see the Ford government has realized that changing the OMPF funding formula mid-year would have caused unnecessary havoc to municipal governments across Ontario," said Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Shoemaker, who until recently was chair of the city's finance committee.
"These changes would likely have required either drastic service cuts or untenable tax increase. Providing stable funding for this year allows municipalities to properly prepare for any changes in 2020," Shoemaker said.
“This is reassuring for our city as we implement our council-approved 2019 budget year," said Al Horsman, the city's chief administrative officer.
"Non-tax revenue such as user fees, grants from other levels of government, investment income and other miscellaneous income helped reduce the amount to be raised through property taxes. In addition to user fees, government grants are the largest source of non-tax revenue the municipality can receive,” Horsman said.
“I want to acknowledge Minister [Vic] Fedeli [Ontario's finance minister and former North Bay mayor] for his good judgment in ensuring the city’s 2019 OMPF grant will be consistent with its 2018 grant," added Mayor Christian Provenzano.
"Considering where we are in the budget year, it was certainly the right thing to do," the mayor said.