Toronto

Toronto budget heads to city council with executive committee's OK

John Tory's executive committee approved the city's proposed 2017 budget on Tuesday afternoon, but not before critics again questioned how some reductions might hurt the public.

$10.5 billion budget includes major funding increases for TTC, Toronto Community Housing

Several Toronto city councillors joined a 'play in' outside Mayor John Tory's office on Tuesday. The event called on the mayor to spend more on child care and also reverse cuts to the city's recreation department. (John Rieti/CBC)

John Tory's executive committee approved the city's proposed 2017 budget on Tuesday afternoon, but not before critics again questioned how some reductions might hurt the public.

The city's $10.5 billion budget, which features a two per cent residential property tax increase, includes $80 million more for the TTC than in 2016, while Toronto Community Housing is getting $37 million more than last year as it struggles to repair its buildings.

Tory said crafting the budget was a "Herculean effort," and said he's happy that property taxes were held to the rate of inflation. He said in the future, the provincial and federal governments need to do a better job of supporting Toronto when it comes to housing, child-care and transit.

"They are not doing their jobs," he said, adding councillors should join him in calling on other governments to provide more funding. 

Mayor John Tory's executive committee approved the proposed budget at its Tuesday meeting. (John Rieti/CBC)

The mayor also attacked what he called "misinformation" surrounding the city's plan, pointing out that while some have accused him of closing shelter spaces, for example, there's actually money to open 200 more shelter beds.

But Coun. Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina, pointed out that city shelters will have 10 fewer workers after this year's budget. At the committee meeting, staff confirmed that people who rely on the shelters will likely get fewer services as a result.

Recreation cuts highlighted at parent protest

Meanwhile, dozens of parents brought their children for a "play-in" outside Tory's office. The demonstration — the third of its kind during this budget cycle — reiterated calls for the city to spend more on child-care subsidies and also asked city council to back away from proposed cuts to the city's recreation division, which is poised to cut about 111 positions, often held by youths.

Recreation fees, meanwhile, are going up across the city.

The parents did applaud Tory's move, announced earlier this week, to restore funding for the occupancy grants paid to local schools that house child-care centres.

Coun. Janet Davis said while that move is positive, parents and councillors alike are getting tired of defending proposed cuts.

"Every year we go through this dance," she told the executive committee.

Budget getting harder to balance, city officials warn

Earlier, City Manager Peter Wallace noted that this year's budget is essentially flat. He pointed out that the budget committee turned down some $10 million in cuts, while also adding $20 million in new and enhanced services.  

The city leaned heavily on revenue generated from its municipal land transfer tax to balance its books, Wallace said,

It is also borrowing from some of its reserve funds.  

But Rob Rossini, the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer, warned that process will be harder to do in the future.

"As your CFO, I'm getting a little worried about it," he said. 

City council is scheduled to debate this year's budget from Feb. 15-16.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.

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