Timeline for the 2012 budget process.
As every article on City finances and every city council speech this year has mentioned, Toronto is heading for a major showdown over the 2012 budget. With a projected shortfall now nearing $800 million, and a new tentative agreement with police that sets the stage for higher labour costs in other sectors as well, everyone is bracing for a long list of cuts.
Deciding just what services the City should trim from its books will be a fraught, contentious process. As part of that process, they’ll be conducting a public consultation process which “will encourage the public to tell the City what they think are core services, their priorities and what they want the City to consider when making decisions about future service delivery” [PDF].
The extent to which Ford’s administration will take this public input into account when drawing up its proposals remains to be seen, but many are predicting that the 2012 budget will be the end of the mayor’s political honeymoon: after campaigning on a pledge of “no major service cuts*” (where * was only sometimes mentioned, and is “in 2011”), this will be the moment where Torontonians really come to grips with Ford’s approach to governance. The hunt for inefficiencies didn’t yield much in Ford’s first budget, and even if the consultants he’s bringing in find more, they won’t amount to more than a fraction of the total budget shortfall. At some point, we’ll be faced with the stark reality that services cost money, that decisions have been taken to reduce the revenue coming into the City (for instance, by eliminating the Vehicle Registration Tax), and that neither the province nor the federal government have given any indication that they’ll be showering us with new funds.
In short: how much do we raise taxes, and how much do we cut services?
An “engagement website” and public meeting dates will be announced on Wednesday; online and in-person consultations will run until June 17. We’ll keep updating with more details about how you can be involved in the budget process as that information becomes available.