Councillors accidentally unbalanced the budget. At midnight.
In what Speaker Nunziata mused was the longest single session of the current term, Toronto City Council passed the 2017 Budget early on Thursday morning in a 27-16 vote. But only after accidentally unbalancing the budget. Oops.
Of course, while much of the 15-hour meeting was fairly routine, it wouldn’t be Toronto City Council without some theatrics.
The whole thing almost imploded at the 11th hour, when a relatively routine vote rejecting cuts to the City street sweeping budget created a $2-million budget shortfall which, considering Council had already voted on tax rates earlier in the day, left Council with few options to cover the cost. Council found themselves in a clear quagmire: without a way to raise more revenue, the City risked passing an unbalanced budget—something that is not permitted under the City of Toronto Act.
Councillors swarmed the City staff desks during an impromptu late-night recess as they attempted to figure out what options they had available. When it reconvened, Council had two options: pull $2 million from the Tax Stabilization Reserve to cover the imbalance, or adjourn and call another meeting. In a 39-4 vote, Council opted for the former, allowing the budget to be passed.
This, of course, drew a cacophony of complaints from Council’s left-leaning councillors, many of whom complained that there was $2 million available to patch a hole of Council’s own creation, but no money to maintain service levels at homeless shelters in the city.
(One might hope that the stress of the whole ordeal might serve as a caution against voting on property taxes before deciding what to spend money on. It probably won’t, but we can hope. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
For a blow-by-blow account of it all, check out Neville Park’s astounding liveblog here.