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The Tax Man Cometh

20090210budget2.jpg
Your tax dollars at work.


Today is budget day at City Hall, and the mood is grim but determined. In the face of rising unemployment, swelling welfare rolls, and glum economic forecasts, the rock of weakening revenue and the hard place of increasing social service costs are squeezing the City hard. In a press conference this morning, Mayor David Miller and Budget Committee Chair Shelley Carroll reassured the public that no major service cuts were on the table and that many planned improvements (such as the Tower Renewal program, various environmental initiatives, and TTC upgrades) were going ahead as planned. Miller made a point of contextualizing the pressures the City faces, lambasting the federal government for failing to expand EI eligibility requirements, and reminding us that the hangover of Mike Harris’s welfare offloading is being felt to this day.
The highlight reel: the balanced budget accommodates increased costs in four primary areas—TTC improvements, police services, snow clearing, and welfare payments—via $102 million in savings and efficiencies and a 4 per cent residential property tax hike. The widely anticipated tax increase was described by Miller as “modest” and a way to make sure that “we each pay what we can to ensure that no one—your neighbour, your co-worker, even your family—gets left behind.” TTC fares have been frozen, and user fee increases will be capped at the rate of inflation. The City is also rolling out a series of initiatives meant to help residents in dire economic straits. In addition to expanded property tax relief (an additional 22,000 households are expected to be eligible) and an enhanced Rent Bank, a set of services for job-seekers was unveiled yesterday.
Today’s budget announcement will be followed up by two days of hearings on February 17-18; the budget will be put to a vote on March 31.

Comments

  • http://undefined PickleToes

    …reminding us that the hangover of Mike Harris’s welfare offloading is being felt to this day
    Hah, yeah, blame it on Mike Harris even though he’s been out of office for years. I guess their own poor use of money has nothing to do with it.

  • http://www.hardcircle.net Ian

    You can blame a lot of people for the structural fiscal issues the city is in:

    • Chrétien’s Liberals for cutting provincial payments to balance the federal budget, forcing Ontario to cut services or raise taxes
    • Harris’s Conservatives for downloading some costs onto cities that they were not financially prepared to pay
    • McGuinty’s Lberals for failing to undo all of the downloaded services to cities, or to give more power to cities so they can borrow money.
    • David Miller for failing to have the backbone to raise taxes substantially to put the city in a stable financial position

    Any way you slice it, the pie chart makes it clear that a large chunk of Toronto’s expenses are for systems that would be impossible or difficult to cut.
    While improving the use of money is always a good idea, a 5-10% savings that any efficiencies will likely give isn’t going to change the fundamental allocation of funds.
    Either Toronto is going to have to drastically cut services, or some level of government is going to have to substantially raise taxes.

  • http://undefined torontothegreat

    yea cause the second someone leaves office, all the trouble they caused leaves with them :P

  • http://undefined PickleToes

    So that doesn’t seem like a partisan jab disguised as a reason to you?

  • http://null rek

    Are you denying that Harris’ and Eves’ impact can still be felt? Maybe if they’d been Liberals or NDP you’d blame them.