Toronto

Zoos, parks targeted in latest auditor's review

Contracting out park maintenance, closing zoo and farm attractions, and scrapping the Toronto Environment Office are some of the suggestions contained in an auditor's review of city services.

Contracting out park maintenance, closing zoo and farm attractions, and scrapping the Toronto Environment Office are some of the suggestions contained in an auditor's review of city services.

The document, which looks at cost-cutting measures for the city's Parks and Environment Department, was prepared by independent auditor KPMG. It is the fourth of eight reports that are to be released in the coming days.

Unlike the reports for some of the other departments that contained upwards of two dozen suggestions, this paper contained only nine measures.

The items included partly contracting maintenance of park facilities to community groups, reducing the standard for grass cutting other than on sports fields, reducing the standard for snow clearing, and eliminating horticultural activities.

Indeed, a politically charged debate could revolve around the elimination of the environment office. The department was set up under former mayor David Miller's regime.

"Opportunity may exist to eliminate the Toronto Environment Office, as its activities are largely discretionary," the report said.

Another item, which might also draw the ire of Torontonians, is the suggestion to eliminate some zoo and farm attractions in areas such as Riverdale and High Parks.

"There are opportunities to eliminate some non-core services, particularly the urban agriculture and farm and zoo activities," the report said.

Toronto's Metro Zoo is not included under this suggestion.

Cuts to the city's farm and zoo programs are among the suggestions in the latest auditor's report.

Earlier this week, the auditor suggested a wide range of cuts to services from solid waste collection and snow removal to daycare spaces and the merger of emergency and fire services.

All the measures are expected to be debated by the individual committees beginning next week.

Toronto is faced with a looming $774-million budget shortfall. In the spring, the city kicked off a comprehensive review of all city services, how they are provided, and the fees people pay for them.