5 things you should know about Toronto's 2019 budget
It was a long, debate-heavy session at City Hall yesterday, but council has officially approved Toronto's 2019 operating budget, as well as a 2019-2028 capital budget and plan.
The $13.47 billion operating budget and $40.67 billion capital budget were approved at 8:20 p.m. on Thursday evening, with councillors voting 22-4 in favour of what Mayor John Tory called a "responsible" plan.
Not everyone was happy about all of the items approved or shot down in the process, and there are plenty of intricacies to pore over for those who have time to do so.
Those who don't can get the highlights below, though I will say it's also a worthy endeavour to read more about what went down when you get the chance.
This budget ensures we will have more recreation spaces for families, more youth hubs, more police officers, and more improvements to TTC service. The final #BudgetTO to approve the item as amended was approved overwhelmingly by Council with a 22 to 4 vote. pic.twitter.com/IpvXQNPWcP— John Tory (@JohnTory) March 8, 2019
Here are 5 things to know about the City of Toronto's freshly-approved 2019 budget:
Toronto's 2019 budget has a giant, $79 million question mark hovering over it in the form of funds that haven't yet come through.
The city is banking on at least $45 million from the federal government as reimbursement for housing thousands of refugees, but while Tory says he's confident Toronto will get that money, nothing is for certain at this point.
Staff also need to come up with $34 million in additional cuts. Where that cash will come from remains to be seen, but without it, we'll have one very expensive hole to fill.
The average Toronto household will pay roughly $104 more in taxes this year, but many argued that the number should be higher.
Councillors Gord Perks, Josh Matlow, Mike Layton and Kristyn Wong-Tam all unsuccesfully put forward motions proposing further property tax hikes to help pay for such things as childcare subsidies, seniors homesharing and a rent bank.
Nonetheless, Mayor John Tory stayed true to his campaign promise to keep taxes as low as possible.
"Overall the 2019 budget tax increase is 1.8 per cent. There is a 2.55 per cent increase for residential properties, 1.28 per cent increase for commercial properties and 0.85 per cent for industrial properties," according to a City of Toronto News release.
You'll soon be paying 10 cents more per streetcar, subway and bus ride on the TTC, though you've probably already heard that. What you may not know is that some on City Council were fighting to avoid the fare hike by bringing back the infamous "car tax" killed in 2011 by then-mayor Rob Ford.
A proposal just to study the idea of a vehicle registration tax was shot down fast in an 18-8 vote.
Presto fare card taps and tokens will rise from $3.00 to $3.10 in April, if all goes as planned. The cost of a monthly pass will also go up under the new structure, though cash fares will remain the same at $3.25. Not that it matters much, when the agency plans to stop taking cash at all.
On the plus side, Toronto's long-awaited downtown relief line is now expected to open two years earlier than initially planned.
Council voted 8-18 against a report on a $60 vehicle registration tax to generate revenue for transit and eliminate the 10 cent fare increase. pic.twitter.com/XuNHJsxD1s— ScarbTransitAction (@TransitScarb) March 8, 2019
Approximately 53 per cent of the entire 10-year state of good repair capital budget will go toward that hulking, crumbling beast of a highway we all love to hate, according to city manager Chris Murray.
Former City of Toronto Chief Planner and one-time mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is one of many incredulous residents.
"Recreation programs for kids? Nope. Our Climate Plan? Nope. Poverty Reduction strategy? Nope. Bike Lanes? Nope. Sidewalk snow removal? Nope," she commented in response to the news.
"Rebuild the Gardiner Expressway. YES. Toronto is stuck in the past. We need to get unstuck."
Crazy town: more than half of our 10 year capital budget is allocated to rebuilding a highway in the sky that is used by 3% of morning commuters. Some cities are seeking to become green. Toronto is building a 1950’s boondoggle. https://t.co/ivmhEynifN— Jennifer Keesmaat (@jen_keesmaat) March 8, 2019
The aforementioned state-of-good-repair budget leaves what many critics say is an insufficient amount of money to address thousands of Toronto Community Housing units in desperate need of repair.
The Star reports that the backlog is expected to grow t0 $9.5 billion by 2028 if the issue isn't tackled. It wasn't this time around, but there's always next year. For now, Tory is focused on new affordable housing projects.
"I'm proud this budget includes funding to speed up work on the relief line by at least two years and to begin the Housing Now plan to build 10,000 more housing units on 11 surplus city-owned sites," he said following the budget's approval on Thursday evening.
"This budget ensures we will have more recreation spaces for families, more youth hubs, more police officers, and more improvements to TTC service."
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