Homeowners in Toronto look set to face a 1.3% property tax increase in 2016 as the city moved one step closer Monday to finalizing the budget.
Toronto city council's budget chief Gary Crawford proposed his revised spending plan for 2016. It includes a property tax increase at the rate of inflation but leaves out millions of dollars worth of initiatives that had either been promised by Mayor John Tory or approved by council.
Among the items left out of the budget are the mayor's promised task force on Toronto Community Housing, improvements to park facilities and bolstering the city's accountability offices.
- Preliminary budget calls for 2.17% property tax increase
- Approved but unfunded: new initiatives missing from budget
Tory "shouldn't have made promises to the people of Toronto if he didn't intend to pay for them," Coun. Gord Perks told reporters at City Hall.
"It's not that we are saying 'no' to a lot of these items, but what we are saying is not this year," Crawford told a news conference at City Hall.
"I think the mayor and his staff have done a good job of balancing off the need-to-have with the want-to-have," Coun. John Campbell told CBC News in an interview.
A 1.3 per cent property tax increase works out to about $35 a year for the average home in the city, with an assessed value at just under $550,000. Homeowners also face hikes in water rates and some solid-waste fees, as well as a 0.6 per cent increase in the form of a new levy dedicated to building the Scarborough subway. The subway levy will costs the average homeowner $16 this year.
The revised budget proposal goes to the city's budget committee next week, and then must also be approved by the city's executive committee and finally the full city council.
The initial budget proposal put forward in December proposed a 2.17% property tax increase to cover what would have been a $57-million shortfall.
To bring it to balance, the new proposal raids some reserve funds set aside for child care and housing and takes one-time payments from such agencies as the Toronto Parking Authority and the Toronto Port Lands Company.
Meanwhile, the TTC and Toronto Police Service are being asked to trim their budgets without reducing service levels by cutting "discretionary expenses."
The preliminary budget left out $67 million in new funding initiatives that council had approved or Tory had promised. The revised plan salvages about 40% of those programs, said Crawford.
Some councillors say the city has a revenue problem and needs to solve it through other means.
"We can't continue to pretend that the lowest tax rate in the province with no talk of revenue tools is the way we are going to achieve a city of the future," Coun. Janet Davis told reporters at City Hall.