Tory's budget plan asks for spending cuts, draws from city reserves
The mayor is asking police, the TTC and city staff to find nearly $20 million worth of combined savings.
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Mayor John Tory is proposing tapping into reserves and asking police, the TTC and city staff to find nearly $20 million worth of combined savings to balance the 2016 budget.
Budget chief Gary Crawford introduced a series of motions Monday that reflect months of work with Tory on the spending plan. It includes raising property taxes by 1.3 per cent and funding about $28 million out of $67 million in new commitments politicians have made in the past year.
The plan leaves a gap of about $50 million between revenue and services. To close the gap, Tory and Crawford are recommending council ask for one-time payments from city agencies, worth $15.5 million, and pulling a combined $17.1 million from two reserve funds — money set aside to cover budget emergencies in public housing along with children and families services.
Belt-tightening measures across all city agencies and programs will also be needed to make the plan work. The TTC is being asked to cut $5 million and the police would have to trim $3 million. Other city departments and agencies will need to trim $11 million by freezing “discretionary spending,” which includes business travel and consultant contracts.
Tory was not available for comment on Monday. Council will debate the proposal in coming weeks with the final budget expected to be approved next month.
The mayor’s critics on council called the plan “unsustainable” because the money used to plug the budget gap this year won’t be available again.
Coun. Mike Layton gave a blistering speech, taking Tory to task for borrowing and dipping into reserves in order to meet the city’s budget.
Many people thought they would be moving away from the “circus tent” of the Rob Ford years to the boardroom under Tory’s leadership, he said.
“But sadly, with respect to our budgeting, it looks like we’ve started lining up at the pay day loan shop,” Layton said.
Coun. Gord Perks warned the city will face a budget crisis next year.
“It just gets worse and worse and worse until services start falling apart,” Perks said. “We will start to see cracks appear this year.”
Coun. Josh Matlow commented on the plan by way of metaphor, on Twitter:
What Tory and Crawford want in and what they don't:
—The TTC commission has approved almost $17 million in new spending, but the mayor is only on board with $1.8 million. A bus maintenance program, new express bus service, a safety initiative for employees doing work on subway tracks and an employee training program are out. Improved streetcar reliability and earlier Sunday subway service are in.
— The mayor’s task force on Toronto Community Housing would only get $5.4 million of the $13.7 million it requested to improve social housing. It will be spent, in part, on evening and weekend cleaning along with a program to handle hoarding incidents.
— Parks and environment requested $11 million in funding for new programs but would only get $2.2 million. A wildlife centre, daily cleaning of swimming beaches and a proposed park ranger program are on the list of things that wouldn’t be funded.
— The poverty reduction strategy for 2016 is funded under the mayor’s plan.
— $5 million in economic development/culture spending is included, including $10,000 for the creation of a photo laureate post.