Toronto

Toronto to balance its books by tomorrow, but at what cost?

Toronto’s budget chief says he expects to balance the city’s books by tomorrow, and that he’s still looking for savings.

Budget chief says potentially 'bloated' management ranks could be cut in the future

Coun. Justin Di Ciano, centre, announced a proposal to give the city's auditor general more money, a move the budget committee hopes will find savings for the 2018 budget. Budget Chief Gary Crawford, left, vowed the city would balance its books by Tuesday. (John Rieti/CBC)

Toronto's budget chief says he expects to balance the city's books by tomorrow, and that he's still looking for savings.

Coun. Gary Crawford said he will close the $91-million budget shortfall, though he said specifics of his plan will be left for Tuesday's budget committee meeting. So far, the city has saved $170 million during the budget cycle, Crawford said, by finding efficiencies and shedding some 500 jobs through attrition.

Crawford said the property tax increase will remain at two per cent.

"We will be providing a very affordable budget for the citizens of the city," he told reporters at city hall.

The budget chief, who spoke alongside councillors Frances Nunziata and Justin Di Ciano, also hinted at future cuts in the coming years. Crawford said he believes the city's management and middle-management area "could potentially be bloated" and could be pared down.

"We want to look at how we reduce that properly," he said, adding he doesn't foresee a wave of layoffs as part of the cuts.

Crawford didn't provide a number of how many managers are working for the city, nor would he single out a department where he thought there were too many managers.

Di Ciano, meanwhile, announced plans to double the budget of the city's auditor general's office, with hopes that with some $1 million more in funding will help identify ways to save money in the future.

Di Ciano said the new money will "significantly increase" the number of audits done. 

Cuts will hurt city services, critics warn

The proposals faced immediate criticism at city hall.

Coun. Gord Perks, who has advocated for a property tax increase to better fund services, said the city should be making bold moves to address issues such as child-care and affordable housing. Instead, he said, the budget process has become too focused on chopping almost every department's budget by 2.6 per cent.

"What it doesn't yield is efficient government. What it doesn't yield is investment in priority areas where Torontonians want to see better service," Perks told reporters.

Tim Maguire, President of CUPE 79, reiterated Perks's call for the city to bolster its services rather than taking a "nickel and dime" approach to the budget.

"I think there are already cuts in this budget that have a negative impact on services," he said.

Tory backs plan from Los Angeles

Mayor John Tory is in Los Angeles for a trade mission this week, but issued a news release saying he supports the budget committee's plans.

"Keeping Toronto livable can't just be about spending more. It has to be about spending smarter while improving services at the same time," he said in an email.

The city is required to balance its budget.

City council will get its say on the proposals at the end of the month. 

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