November 28, 2011
Toronto residents will face a 2.5 per cent property tax increase in a draft budget unveiled Monday by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford that targets “out of control spending.”
Ford, who was elected last year on a campaign platform to curtail city spending, said the draft budget cuts total city spending by $355 million in the next fiscal year.
“We’ve found ways to rebuild our crumbling fiscal foundation,” said Ford. “This is a budget that slams the door on out-of-control spending.”
You can read the budget documents here.
Among the budget highlights Ford outlined in a press conference Monday morning:
- Staff reductions: Ford said the city’s total workforce would be reduced by 2,300 employees. Budget chair Mike Del Grande said about half the positions being cut are currently vacant and now won’t be filled. Hiring will be deferred for 36 paramedics ($1.1 million in savings), 68 firefighters ($7.2 million), 236 police officers ($14.6 million) along with TTC staff reductions.
- Wading pools: About 35 were slated to close. Instead, just five of a city-wide total of 105 will close. This is slated to save $157,000. “They are underused and require significant capital spending,” said Ford.
- Library hours reduced: A “seven per cent reduction to harmonize open hours and library materials” is slated to save $7.3 million. Ford touted this as a success because no branches will be closed.
- Reduced arena hours Reduction in off-peak hours at selected arenas. Slated to save $260,000.
School pools: Eliminate programming at selected Toronto District School Board pools. Will save about $980,000.
WheelTrans: Elimination of service for dialysis patients.
Garbage rates: No increase in residential garbage rates, “a huge achievement,” Ford said.
CBC city hall reporter Jamie Strashin spent the morning going over the budget documents.
“The cuts are spread across the board,” Strashin reported. “The savings are seen across a variety of departments. Everyone across the city is taking some budgetary medicine here.”
Coun. Josh Matlow said the cuts were guided too much by the mayor’s mandate for a 10 per cent reduction across all city departments.
“Asking every single department to offer up a 10 per cent cut is arbitrary, it’s thoughtless,” said Matlow. “It doesn’t consider the needs of each one of the areas of our city. To simply just ask for 10 per cent and hope the world will be okay isn’t the way Torontians want city hall to provide good governance.”
Ford, however, said the cuts are necessary to fix the city’s fiscal woes.
“The people of Toronto have been very clear about what they want,” Ford said. “They want us to stop the wasteful spending, reduce city expenses and hold the line on taxes.”
“Everybody knows we inherited this mess from our previous government,” said Ford. “The city spent more money than it could afford. The growth in city spending was out of control and the taxpayers were sick and tired of it. That’s why they elected me. They elected me to take action. I’m doing what they asked me to do.”
A number of hecklers appeared in council chambers and tried to shout down Ford as he was speaking. A handful were removed by security staff. City manager Joe Pennachetti was expected to address the media after Ford, but the meeting was moved to another, smaller room.
Monday’s release of the draft budget is the first step in the budget process. The draft budget will be debated before a final budget comes to executive committee Jan. 12. The budget is slated for final approval by council the following week.
To read this article on cbcnews.ca, please click here.