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5 things to know about the 2014 Toronto budget

Posted by Chris Bateman / January 31, 2014

toronto city councilAfter a two-day meeting full of all the vitriol, hyperbole, and absurdity we've come to expect from city hall, last night council finally nailed down Toronto's $9.6-billion operating budget for 2014, while (mostly) rejecting a raft of measures Rob Ford had claimed would save the city $60 million.

The vital financial blueprint dictates what the city charges its residents in taxes and fees and what it spends keeping things like fire services and the TTC running. In case you weren't rapt by endless hours of financial debate, here are a few of the highlights.

PROPERTY TAX WENT UP BY 2.71%

The city has plenty of things to pay for this year, including the Scarborough subway extension and a backlog of repairs following a nasty series winter storms, so, naturally, taxes had to go up - but by how much? Council decided on the first day of its meeting to set the property tax rate 2.71% higher than in 2013, which loosely translates to $68.59 a year extra for the average homeowner in the city.

Income from property taxes fund 39%, or $3.8 billion, of Toronto's $9.6 billion operating budget. The remainder comes from user fees and payments from other levels of government, among other sources of revenue.

Rob Ford, who wanted to keep the increase to 1.75%, called the decision "ridiculous."

ROB FORD PRESENTED A LOT OF MOTIONS

After days of keeping the city on tenterhooks, Ford finally lifted the veil on a series of motions he claimed could reduce the budget by $60 million. Among his ideas were plans to cancel the hiring of two new by-law officers to inspect apartment buildings, eliminate security guards at public libraries, add library fines to property tax bills, and cut city staff salary budget, all of which failed.

The mayor did manage to win some battles: Our Toronto and City Insider, two magazines printed at the city's expense, were thrown in the trash, as was the Employer Engagement Survey. A motion to find sponsors for the Pan-Am Games, which it appears was already happening, also passed.

THE SCARBOROUGH SUBWAY GOT SOME CASH

0.5% of the property tax increase - some $12.2 million - went to the Scarborough subway, which let's not forget council voted for instead of a fully-funded LRT in 2013. The money will be used to lay the groundwork for the three-stop continuation of the Bloor-Danforth line to Scarborough Centre, but more money will be needed next year.

A motion by councillor Josh Matlow that would have required the city to report on the sunk costs associated with cancelling the LRT failed.

THE TTC GOT A FUNDING INCREASE

Riders were dinged with a 5-cent fare increase this year, but the TTC was given a $20 million increase to its operating subsidy - the money it needs to keep the trains running on top of what it gets from customers - during yesterday's meeting.

TTC CEO Andy Byford said the extra money, $3 million more than the organization had originally asked for, will help make up for a projected $6 million budget shortfall. Earlier in the year Byford said he hoped the rest of that money could be found in efficiencies.

In previous years the TTC operating budget has been frozen. It will total $433 million this year.

Just for comparison it's worth noting that the TTC remains the least subsidized mass transit system of its size in North America - just 78-cents on every fare is paid for by the city. Montreal and Vancouver get $1.16 and $1.62 per fare respectively.

COUNCIL CUT FIRE SERVICES MONEY

Despite a TV advert that claimed cutting five fire trucks and 84 firefighters would slow response times and put lives at risk, city council decided to reduce spending on Toronto Fire Services this year. Underwriters who set insurance rates said the cuts wouldn't noticeably affect the quality of fire protection in Toronto.

A motion by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly rescued one of the trucks by providing a one-time cash injection of $2 million.

Are you pleased that the TTC is getting more money? What about the cash going to the Scarborough subway?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Chris Bateman/blogTO

Discussion

19 Comments

Al / January 31, 2014 at 07:40 am
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Rob Ford makes a big show of visiting apartment buildings and pretending to care about the residents living in run-down conditions, then he proposes axing the people who do the inspections.
Steve / January 31, 2014 at 07:51 am
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Rob Ford view on library, 6 years fighting over a dinosaur books. He sees a book and asks what is that?
BM / January 31, 2014 at 08:20 am
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Why don't we just stop making people get library cards and just give the books away?
iSkyscraper / January 31, 2014 at 09:06 am
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So, in the last couple weeks, a US Congressman who admitted to cocaine use, and went to rehab, still resigned because everyone knows you don't support supposedly conservative politicians who do drugs.

A Montreal area mayor was arrested for a DUI, but claimed it was really minor because "he wasn't a Rob Ford".

And then you had all the silliness with Steak Queen, the Broncos shirt, Bieber...

But none of that is supposed to matter, right, because Rob does a great job of protecting the little guy and saving money, right?

Except that his childish budget theatrics proved, yet again, that he is utterly incompetent to do the job. He doesn't do research to understand the issues, doesn't weigh pros and cons, refuses to collaborate, and simply pulls stuff out of the air -- Hey, I hate libraries, lets look at their budget -- cool, security guards. Cut them! Because, you know, it's not like 10 seconds on google would reveal some interesting issues about libraries and security.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-act-violence/201203/your-local-library-can-be-dangerous-place

But since Ford doesn't use libraries (and probably reads at a middle-school level), he doesn't understand them, and he doesn't bother to talk to the people who do.

Fuck you, Rob. Resign like you should have long ago and leave governing to adults.
CaligulaJones replying to a comment from Al / January 31, 2014 at 09:23 am
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I think his idea is that you can get rid of the inspectors, because all people have to do is call high-profile politicians, who will show up with a half-dozen camera crews...

What could possibly go wrong?
Vinnie replying to a comment from Al / January 31, 2014 at 10:01 am
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Well Rob Ford can do them all himself right? The People's Mayor™ does it all!
Vinnie replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / January 31, 2014 at 10:04 am
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indeed, his assertion that "I don’t think we’re going to have two six-year-olds battling it out over a dinosaur book” shows how little he knows about who actually uses libraries.
NativeTorontonianAl / January 31, 2014 at 10:14 am
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It's over Toronto, don't bother.
McRib / January 31, 2014 at 10:19 am
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$12 million towards the subway in Scarborough. Only $990 million to go and its paid off baby!
Astin / January 31, 2014 at 10:53 am
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I loved how he used a visit to Richview library as his example. A suburban library that was the Etobicoke Public Library HQ pre-amalgamation.

Easily comparable to any of the libraries in sketchier neighbourhoods, or downtown, or in higher-density areas, where there could be more serious problems to be dealt with than shushing kids.

And of course, the reason security guards might not have much to do is BECAUSE THEY ARE THERE. Prevention through visibility isn't a small aspect of the job.
Rob / January 31, 2014 at 01:22 pm
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I wasn't following city politics at the time, but how did the resistance to the Vaughn subway extension compare to the Scarborough one?
Arturo / January 31, 2014 at 03:36 pm
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Do taxes ever go down?
Alex replying to a comment from Arturo / January 31, 2014 at 03:51 pm
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If we had deflation and things cost less one year than they did before, maybe. But that would also mean our economy was completely screwed and we were in a depression. So let's not hope for that, eh?

Another bad budget. Not terrible, but they keep raising taxes by less than inflation and punting the problem down the road. I guess the councilors are counting on not getting elected in october so they won't have to deal with it next year?
No comparison, Rob / January 31, 2014 at 04:07 pm
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Vaughn wasn't a political subway, like Scarboro's. Better comp is to the Sheppard subway, also a political subway, to whicj there was a LOT of resistance.
Davy Gravy replying to a comment from Arturo / January 31, 2014 at 04:23 pm
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Does your salary? If so, do you think that's a good idea too?
Mark replying to a comment from Rob / January 31, 2014 at 04:54 pm
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Sending the subway into Vaughan was more palatable because that was a liberal riding supported by liberal politicians and would serve predominantly white suburbanites. The Scarborough subway serves residents of the city who might be inclined to vote for Ford and serves new Canadian immigrants so there's the difference to your average south of Bloor voter.
John Norton / February 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm
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Remember when times were good? and Miller made the city run the best it had run in years..... then Ford screwed it all up.
King Rob Ford / February 4, 2014 at 11:50 am
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Hare Krishna!
Stuteam / March 4, 2014 at 09:35 am
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Property tax go up is little bit scary. The life expense is getting higher every year and real estate rates going high now.

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