Message of the day: Rob Ford and his allies will save you from their own budget.
The executive committee—the most powerful of city council’s committees, and the budget’s last stop before it goes before city council for approval next week—is meeting today, and is considering a number of motions that would reverse several proposed budget cuts. Among them:
- Homeless shelters: Currently, three are slated for closure. A motion by Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West, who heads the mayor’s task force on homelessness) suggests instead that “Downsview Dells, Birchmount Residence and Bellwoods House not be closed until each of the current residents is transferred to appropriate housing or other accommodation appropriate to their needs such as long-term care.”
- Libraries: Several motions are on the table right now. One, by Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35, Scarborough Southwest) demands that the Toronto Public Library meet its budget reduction target of 10% without reducing operating hours. (She is convinced this could be done via unspecified “efficiencies” and reducing things like purchases of movies and magazines.) Another, by Jaye Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley West), suggests that the library cutback demand be reduced—so that it would need to cut $4 million more from its budget instead of $7 million more—and that this be offset by new revenue from property tax assessment growth.
- Arts funding: A motion by Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) suggests that council “reverse the reduction to the CPIP Budget Envelope of $1.9 million for Arts and Culture Grants, the funds to be drawn from additional assessment growth revenues.”
- Surplus allocation: Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) is proposing that 100% of this year’s surplus (currently projected to be $154 million), and all future operating budget surpluses, be allocated to TTC capital projects (i.e. infrastructure investments), until the current shortfall of $700 million over the next 10 years is filled. (This is a way to prevent council from using debt financing to pay for those projects.)
- Hardship Fund: Cesar Palacio (Ward 17, Davenport) is proposing that council continue paying for the Hardship Fund, which helps offset medical expenses for individuals on social assistance, until July 1, 2012. After that, his motion goes on, council should ask the province to pick up the tab, and if the province refuses, the City should continue to pay for the Fund through the Toronto Employment and Social Services net budget. Effect: saving the Hardship Fund.
The executive committee will debate these motions this afternoon; we’ll update with any additional motions that are tabled, and the results of those votes, as events progress. The full text of all motions is available here.
Breaking with precedent, the executive committee has just voted on the entire package of motions, rather than considering them one by one. The whole lot has passed, and the revised 2012 budget will now go on to a full meeting of city council next week for debate, possible additional changes, and approval. One late-breaking motion included in that package: one by David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale) to reinsert local sidewalk snow clearing into the budget, at a cost of roughly $1 million, to be paid for by growth in the property tax assessment.