Dear Friends and Residents,
Yesterday, the Budget Committee approved a $9.4 billion operating budget and a $2.8 billion capital budget for the City of Toronto in 2012. Their recommendations will go to Executive Committee and full Council on January 17th, 2012. While I am pleased that several important programs were saved, I am still concerned over many of the cuts that remain. Many of the remaining cuts are a direct result of the Mayor's request to cut 10% from the budgets of every City Department, Agency, Board and Commission. I have expressed my concern about the arbitrary nature in which this process has been conducted in a previous newsletter. These mandated reductions have forced City staff to take Draconian measures that do not consider the importance of services to local residents that rely upon them.
In this update, I'm providing you with:
- A notice about my upcoming 2012 Budget Town Hall
- Important information on the 2012 Budget
- Green Toronto Awards
Ward 22 – St. Paul's
1. Notice of my upcoming 2012 Budget Town Hall
Date: Wednesday, January 11
Time: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Location: North Toronto Memorial Community Centre, 200 Eglinton Ave W (at Lascelles Blvd)
I will be hosting my 2nd annual Budget Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, January 11th from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre. City Staff will be available to answer any budget related questions you might have. The decisions Council will make in January on the 2012 Budget will impact every Toronto resident. I believe that it is vital that you are informed, engaged and given the opportunity to make your voice heard
2. Important information on the 2012 Budget
Programs that were protected:
- Student nutrition programs for 14,000 students including Davisville Public School
- Programming at 12 school-based community centres including Brown Public School
- Two of the seven indoor swimming pools slated for closure: Bedford Park Community Centre and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute.
- Wheel-Trans service for ambulatory dialysis patients continues until June 30, at a cost of $2.5 million, while permanent funding is sought.
Thank you to the many Ward 22 residents who took the time to write letters in support of these crucial programs to the Mayor and members of his Executive and Budget Committees. Your voice made a difference!
As your former School Trustee, I am very aware of the importance of a good meal for student performance. It is unfair to expect a child to learn and be successful in the classroom if he/she is coming to school on an empty stomach. I am also keenly aware that many neighbourhoods throughout the city rely on the excellent programming available at our school-based community centres and pools. Our gratitude should also be extended to several councillors affiliated with the mayor who recognized the importance of these programs to children and families across the city and spoke out in favour of preserving funding.
Some of the programs still scheduled for reduction or elimination:
- Libraries' budget cut 10 per cent, or $7 million.
- Close three daycares (St. Mark's near Queen and Lansdowne; Greenholm-Albion in Etobicoke and Belleview near College and Bathurst) and eliminate daycare's rent subsidies potentially increasing costs to parents
- Close homeless shelters (Birchmount, Downsview Dells and Bellwoods).
- Close five of the seven targeted indoor pools (in Frankland Community Centre, Gordon A. Brown Middle School, Hillcrest Community Centre, Runnymede Collegiate and S H. Armstrong Community Recreation Centre.)
- Close five of 105 wading pools and two of 59 outdoor pools
- Half of the planned cuts to rush-hour bus service have been cancelled for now but threaten to reappear in 2013 unless TTC can find $45 million for 54 new buses and bus storage facilities
- A 17% cut to the Toronto Environment Office, eliminating energy conservation and climate change strategy implementation staff
- Reducing City's tree canopy. The budget calls for merging programs for new trees and street trees into one program to save about $1 million
- Community Partnership and Investment Program. The program, which provides grants to community groups, has seen its funding envelope cut about 10 per cent to $42.5 million
- $100,000 reduction to the Tenant's Defence fund
- Elimination of Mechanical leaf collection. Residents in areas of Etobicoke and Scarborough will have to bag their leaves if council approves cancelling mechanical collection of leaves raked to the curb
- Elimination of Christmas bureau that helps distribute gifts to needy children.
- Increased response time for firefighters and paramedics. In 2012, planned hiring of 68 firefighters and 36 paramedics is being postponed
- Reducing road cleaning standards
- Reduction in child care services in hostels
- Reduction in horticultural service - annual flower bed, perennial and shrub display reduction
In addition to the many concerning cuts there are a number of measures on the revenue side that the community should be aware of:
- 2.5% property increase
- Increased user fees including recreation programs for children, seniors and low-income individuals, as well as ice rink permits
- Increased garbage rates for multi-unit residential buildings (small, generally "walk-up", apartment buildings)
While I recognize the intent to rein in spending, an order to cut without considering context, details or how residents would be affected by these decisions has led to a number of recommendations that will have an adverse impact on our communities.
In regards to libraries, I am very concerned about the negative effects that cuts to staffing levels, materials acquisitions and facilities will have on patrons. Libraries have often been referred to as the "city's living room". They are places where children, seniors, newcomers and all Torontonians can learn a new skill, discover an author, apply for a job or relax with a magazine.
The proposal for a 10% cut has the potential to result in 19,444 fewer hours at 53 branches across Toronto in addition to a reduction in materials acquisition and the elimination of many programs for children and seniors.
This is an unacceptable service cut, that many in our community rely on. I will work with my colleagues to help stop these cuts to our libraries.
While we must make some difficult but necessary decisions, many of the cuts proposed above are simply unsupportable from a basic good governance perspective. Childcare, recreation, public transit, arts & culture, the environment, tenants' assistance, supportive housing and many other services are essential to the functionality of our city and our residents' basic quality of life.
I will continue working with my community and my colleagues from every political perspective to protect these services while helping to ensure that Toronto is financially sound.
Ward 22 has been successful in avoiding the brunt of the proposed cuts. However, I believe we have a responsibility to work towards a budget for all of Toronto that supports a compassionate and fiscally-responsible city.
3. Green Toronto Awards
The City of Toronto's environmental awards of excellence honour and celebrate the individuals, organizations and companies that are helping lead the way to a cleaner, greener and more liveable Toronto. Nominations close at 11:59 p.m. February 6, 2012. To find out more or to submit a nomination, please visit this website.