City Budget Watch 2011
Update – February 24, 2011
Operating budget passes
- Service cuts to libraries, tenant support, recreation programs, TTC bus routes
- Lost revenues from tax freeze, elimination of vehicle registration tax digs serious hole for City in 2012, sets stage for severe cuts
- $3.5 million in cuts to key service areas
- $3 million in spending for consultants to review the books, find waste and inefficiencies
City Council wrapped up their budget review in just two days. After passing the tax rate, Toronto Water and solid waste and capital budgets yesterday, Council concluded the 2011 budget process by passing the operating budget this afternoon.
Although attempts were made to reverse service cuts in the budget, none of the motions to restore services were successful.
What we lost:
- Closure of Urban Affairs Library and relocation of collection to the Toronto Reference Library. The new Fort York library which will serve this downtown neighbourhood is not slated to open for another two years. Councillor Doucette moved a motion to keep the branch open until the new library is up and running. It failed 19-25.
- Cut of $400,000 from the library collections budget to buy new books and materials for circulation. Consistent with the recommendation of the Toronto Library Board, Councillor Doucette moved a motion to draw $400,000 from development charges as a sustainable source of revenue to maintain collection levels. The motion failed 20-24.
- Elimination of free adult programming at Toronto’s 21 Priority Centres. Councillor McConnell tried to reverse this decision by drawing revenues from the proposed increase to the Welcome Policy. Staff revealed that most of the $200,000 in revenue from introducing user fees would come from Welcome Policy subsidies, essentially moving money from one City envelope to another. The motion lost by 2 votes, 21-23. This major policy change affects over 9,000 residents. Staff estimated that 20% of program registrants will drop out due to the introduction of user fees.
- Cut of $100,000 to the Tenant Defense Fund to support tenants facing above-the-guideline rent increases. Council voted to cut $75,000 from tenant support services, currently delivered by the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, and $25,000 from the fund. Councillor Davis’ motion to restore $75,000 to this program failed by 1 vote, 22-23.
- Cuts to the Ombudsman’s Office. Councillor Matlow’s motions to reverse the 5% cut to the Ombudsman’s Office and add two new positions failed by a wide margin, 18-27 for both motions. The Ombudsman stated that, if the 5% cut was maintained and her request for two new positions was not granted, it would constitute a major service cut.
- Councillor Perks attempted to redirect $3 million in funding for the consultants (tasked with finding waste and inefficiencies) to restore funding for TTC bus routes, Urban Affairs Library closure, Priority Centres, Tenant Defense Fund and Ombudsman’s Office. The motion failed, 17-28.
- Cuts to TTC bus routes. Service cuts on 41 routes remain from an original list of 48: http://www3.ttc.ca/News/2011/January/TTC_bus_routes_reallocated_0131.jsp
How Members of Council Voted: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2011.EX3.4
Highlights and Observations:
- Members of Council have the opportunity to speak for up to five minutes about each of the agenda items. Mayor Ford did not speak on either the capital or operating budget items. Council procedures would have allowed Councillors to ask questions of the Mayor if he had spoken on either of these items.
- Councillor Perks asked staff how much money was included in the budget to hire outside consultants to review the books and identify waste and inefficiencies. Staff replied that $3 million had been set aside, and a staff report with details about the process will come forward to the Government Management Committee on March 29. Councillor Del Grande later commented on his disappointment that the $3 million figure had been made public. He had not wanted to reveal this information to prospective consultants who will shape their proposals with this figure in mind.
- Councillor Filion moved a motion to include $100,000 in one-time funding from the Province to the budget to support prevention work to increase screening for HIV and syphilis, health concerns on the rise. This item is fully funded by the Province, requires no City funding, has no implications on future budgets, and will result in no increase to City staff positions. His motion passed with the support of all of City Council with the exception of Mayor Ford who voted against it.
- Councillor Filion moved another motion requesting a staff report to the Budget Committee that would look at possible measures for improving equity in arts funding to support arts groups in East York and North York. Councillor Filion is working with the Toronto Arts Council to develop local arts organizations. His motion passed 43-2.
- Councillor Davis moved a motion amending a Parks, Forestry and Recreation recommendation requesting staff to report on proposed changes to the Welcome Policy, moving it from a program-based subsidy to a dollar-based subsidy. Councillor Davis asked that the staff report also address adequacy levels in Welcome Policy funding, and that staff consult with affected participants and communities in preparing the report. The motion passed 24-20. The staff report may come to the Community Development and Recreation Committee as early as March. Parks, Forestry and Recreation General Manager is Brenda Patterson. Contact information for PF&R is available here: http://www.toronto.ca/city_directory/pdf/divisions/parks_forestry_recreation.pdf
- Councillor Parker moved a motion on behalf of Councillor Matlow regarding the Tenant Defense Fund. This motion was intended to amend a motion by Councillor Davis to reinstate $75,000 for tenant defense work. The purpose of the amendment was to ensure that organizations receiving this funding would not “engage in, advocate for, or directly participate in partisan issues that are political in nature, either foreign or domestic, outside of their mandate to protect the rights and interests of tenants.” While the amendment was successful, the main motion to reinstate the $75,000 failed. The debate around the amendment was revealing.
- Councillor Matlow commented that accusations have been made about the group receiving Tenant Defense program funds to support tenants (which is FMTA). According to Councillor Matlow, this group has been accused of venturing into political campaigns, perhaps focused on controversial positions on the middle east. The purpose of the amendment was to address this concern.
- Councillor Thompson described an October 24, 2009 FMTA election strategy meeting flyer, that he implied was of a partisan nature. He mentioned that one of the speakers was from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (which I note is not a partisan group). He also mentioned speakers from the NDP were included in the event and involved with FMTA. Councillor Thompson went on to say that no one should think that there isn’t help available to tenants, and that FMTA is not the only group to have its funding reduced in this budget.
- Budget Chief Mike Del Grande concluded the speeches by thanking staff, Budget Committee members and all Councillors for their hard work on the budget. He said that even though Councillors don’t all agree, they all have passion, and that while people may think that no one is listening to what they have to say, he was listening to everyone. Staff were given a round of applause by all members of Council.
- Votes were then held on each motion and the entirety of the operating budget. In the coming days, I will assemble a table summarizing the voting record of each member of Council on various aspects of the budget. I will post this shortly.
- Staff and City Council begin the work of the 2012 budget immediately. The Mayor has committed to completing the 2012 budget before the end of 2011.
- If you have any questions about the budget, please email me at email@example.com or call 416-351-0095 x257. I would be glad to try to assist you with any questions.
Update – February 23, 2011
February 23 Update #2 – Council passes property tax freeze, Toronto Water, solid waste and capital budgets and 10-year capital plan
This update follows from my brief mid-day update about the property tax rate freeze. As mentioned in the last post, City Council voted against introducing a very small property tax increase, worth $3.5 million, that could have been used to reverse the vast majority of proposed service cuts.
Highlights from property tax rate debate:
- Responding to questions about the impact of this year’s tax freeze on the 2012 budget, Mayor Ford detailed the various cuts that have been made to save the taxpayer $66 million. He did not however contemplate the way in which this year’s property tax freeze puts the City further behind the eight ball for the 2012 budget.
- Councillor Mihevc described the 2011 budget with its tax freeze, TTC fare freeze and revenue cuts as a budget that sets the stage for a crisis in 2012. In describing the set-up, he drew parallels with 1990s Conservative Minister John Snoblen, who was caught on tape talking about the necessity of “creating a useful crisis” in education that would allow the government to push through unpopular changes.
- Councillor Perks’ motion to raise revenues by $3.5 million would have resulted in a residential property tax increase of 0.155% compared to neighbouring municipalities that are raising property taxes by 4 and 6%. If it had passed, this property tax increase would have been the smallest in the history of Toronto.
- Several Councillors spoke in support of Councillor Perks’ motion, citing numerous concerns about proposed cuts. Some also spoke about the effects of inflation that require increased revenues to maintain services at current levels.
- Councillors opposed to the motion talked about the importance of drawing the line on spending. Councillor Parker said it’s like the story of a Bedouin tribesman and a camel. The tribesman is sleeping in a tent. The camel starts out asking if perhaps he could just have his nose in the tent to warm up, and “we all know how that story ends”. Councillor Parker said that the government has traditionally been the Bedouin tribesman responding to “pleas for one more indulgence”.
- Councillor Davis responded that Councillors are not talking about reckless spending, or noses of camels who just want more but rather about preserving existing services that residents need and want. She mentioned that only three deputants among more than 200 mentioned a tax freeze or cut. Overwhelmingly, deputants spoke about preserving services with many willing to pay more to do it.
- Councillor Lindsay Luby did not support Councillor Perks’ motion, stating that she would rather see a small TTC fare increase to reverse the bus route cuts. She also went on to chastise Councillor Del Grande about his “widows and orphans” comment made at Executive Committee. This comment was made in response to Councillors who expressed concerns about how cuts would affect seniors and other groups. Councillor Del Grande rose on a point of personal privilege describing Councillor Lindsay Luby’s comments as inappropriate. Councillor Lindsay Luby responded she was sorry he felt so sensitive and that he should be more sensitive to all people whether they are widows or orphans or not. She then pointed out that Mayor Ford’s mother is a widow. [Incidentally, the day following Councillor Del Grande’s comment, a rally in support of the rights of widows and orphans took place in Iraq.]
- Councillor Mammoliti spoke about change at City Hall, the mandate of the Mayor, and the anger of voters. He said not everyone will keep their job at the City and there are no jobs for life, referencing union positions. He mentioned that Councillors who spoke before him had met with CUPE recently and are “singing the tune of the union”. He then made a remark that Councillor Carroll was smiling. Councillor Carroll rose on a point of personal privilege saying she did not expect to be singled out in Council, and that she was listening to Councillor Mammoliti but “only superficially”.
- Councillor Di Giorgio said he had heard from constituents who wanted a flat line in the budget and that the Mayor was elected to take a business approach to run the City and employ principles of efficiency as defined in the private sector not necessarily in the public sector. He said that his ward hadn’t gotten anything out of the tax increases from the past decade.
- Councillor Stintz made a motion requesting a report on the financial impact of increasing the income threshold for the senior property tax cancellation program. This motion passed.
- Councillor Cho offered the most memorable and colourful analysis of the morning. Referencing the new business approach to City Hall, Councillor Cho (tongue firmly planted in cheek) exclaimed that he had a great idea to save the City billions. He suggested the City sell half of its parks to corporations to do with as they see fit. A second plan would be to privatize half of the police force with one group assigned to work west of Yonge and the other east of Yonge. This drew considerable laughs and applause. He shifted into a serious tone, speaking about how “if you keep cutting, you’ll cut out the vision” for the city. He spoke about the importance of city building and vision and the problem of growing inequality between the rich and the poor. He spoke about what kind of city we want to have in the next 10 or 20 years.
- Councillor Holyday spoke against Councillor Perks’ motion, suggesting that the move to increase property taxes was simply to break the Mayor’s promise. Several Councillors pointed out that the Mayor had committed to keep property tax increases to the actual rate of inflation as part of his campaign promises. Only after the election did the Mayor promise a tax freeze.
- Councillor Palacio described the budget as the most “progressive and financially responsible” in a decade, referencing the property tax freeze, TTC fare freeze and vehicle registration tax elimination.
- Councillor Thompson expressed his support for the property tax freeze and budget by quoting Rabbi Hillel, “If not now, when? If not us, who?” He went on to speak about the need to take action to deal with the City’s financial mess and how the Mayor had campaigned on a simple message that residents could understand which resulted in a mandate for the Mayor to addressing the spending problem. Apparently the Rabbi Hillel quote has been used by notables such as Ronald Reagan to defend budget cuts and Barack Obama to usher in health care legislation, among others.
- Councillor Bailao said she would not support a property tax increase because her constituents do not support it, but that there will likely be a need to increase taxes and bring in new revenue sources to preserve services in the future.
- As mentioned in the last post, Councillor Perks’ motion failed by a vote of 18 to 27.
Toronto Water and Solid Waste Budget
The Council went on to debate and approve the Toronto Water and solid waste budget, and then the 2011 capital budget and 10-year capital plan.
Councillors Layton and De Baeremaeker moved motions to restore toilet rebate/water efficiency, downspout disconnection and drain programs, providing cases for the value of these programs and the position the City has enjoyed as a water efficiency leader. Before beginning his comments, Councillor De Baeremaeker assembled a low-flow toilet on his desk to make his point and to the amusement of the Councillors, staff and public. Neither was successful in reinstating the programs.
Councillor Shiner moved a motion to reverse a decision to introduce a $500 fee for CCTV camera inspection of sewer systems and to increase fees from water meter testing. His motions were successful.
Mayor Ford was questioned extensively by several Councillors about his positions on this budget. One line of questioning came from Councillor Filion who asked if Mayor Ford, as a business person, had ever offered a promotion to customers and then refused to honour his commitment and whether that would be considered good customer service. Councillor Filion was referring to the cancellation of the downspout disconnection program. Currently thousands of residents are on the waiting list for this program after responding to requests by the City to sign up. The program is important for reducing the problem of basement flooding and associated issue of sewage overflow. Cancellation of the program will leave thousands who have signed up out of luck, mostly affecting Scarborough residents. The Mayor did not address the question directly, instead focusing on his customer service record stating that “nobody, but nobody treats the customers, the taxpayers, better than I do.”
Toronto Capital Budget and 10-Year Capital Plan
Most of this debate focused on the TTC. Councillor McMahon tried unsuccessfully to defer the decision to open a streetcar maintenance facility at Ashbridges Bay, and to investigate other options. Several Councillors spoke about significant unfunded TTC capital projects in the 10-year plan and the merits or lack thereof of the expansion of the Sheppard subway system. Councillors Vaughan and Perks spoke against the capital plan. Councillor Vaughan described it as “not a strategy but a collection of tactics” aimed at fulfilling a campaign promise to bury six subway stations on the Sheppard line. Councillor Perks described the plan as “long-term pain for short-term gain” and expressed concern about a lack of consideration for the state of good repair needs that would result from this plan. Councillor Mammoliti stated his support for uploading the TTC to the Province before it takes over the whole City budget.
Prior to voting on the capital budget, the dialogue on the floor of Council broke down into some angry exchanges, Councillors rising on points of personal privilege and one Councillor bocking like a chicken. Eventually Council got on to passing the capital budget and 10-year plan. Councillor Fragedakis was able to get a motion passed to add the Donlands subway to a deferral list of stations to receive second exits in future budgets.
The 2011 operating budget is the last item to be addressed by City Council. Council reconvenes on Thursday, February 24 at 9:30 a.m. While February 23-25 and 28 have been set aside for City Council to review the budget, the budget process may concluded as early as Thursday or Friday.
Update – February 23, 2011
City Budget Watch – Brief update from City Council on Day 1, February 23, 2011
After passing through the hands of the Budget and Executive Committees, City Council began reviewing the 2011 budget this morning and will continue their deliberations throughout the week, possibly into Monday if necessary. This is a quick update from this morning’s session.
City Council passed the 2011 property tax rates, thereby freezing property taxes for 2011. Before the motion was passed, Councillor Perks attempted to add $3.5 million to the nearly $9.4 billion operating budget. These additional funds would permit Council to reverse the vast majority of cuts proposed, including cuts to bus routes, the Tenant Defense Fund, free adult programs in priority centres, closure of the Urban Affairs Library and others. His motion would have allowed Council to debate how best to apply these additional funds to the operating budget. The $3.5 million would have resulted in a property tax increase of 0.155% for residential and .052% for non-residential. For the average homeowner, this tax increase would amount to $3.75 on their 2011 property tax bill. For residents with homes valued at well above average market value, it would amount to about $9.
There was considerable debate on Councillor Perks’ motion which I will summarize and post later. The motion failed by a vote of 18-27.
Councillors who voted in favour of Councillor Perks’ motion to increase property taxes by 0.155% (residential) and 0.052% (non-residential) (18): Augimeri, Carroll, Cho, Davis, De Baeremaeker, Doucette, Filion, Fletcher, Fragedakis, Layton, Matlow, McConnell, McMahon, Mihevc, Perks, Perruzza, Vaughan and Wong-Tam.
Councillors who voted against Councillor Perks’ motion (27): Ainslie, Bailao, Berardinetti, Colle, Crawford, Crisanti, Del Grande, Di Giorgio, Ford, Mayor Ford, Grimes, Holyday, Kelly, Lee, Lindsay Luby, Mammoliti, Milczyn, Minnan-Wong, Moeser, Nunziata, Palacio, Parker, Pasternak, Robinson, Shiner, Stintz, Thompson.
Because this motion was not successful and the property tax rate freeze has passed, this means that if Councillors try to reverse any of the cuts in the budget, they will have to find the money from within the existing budget. All motions require an offset (where the money will come from to reverse the cut) to ensure a balanced budget. Municipal governments are required by law to pass a balanced budget.
This afternoon, Council will continue with the water and solid waste budget. After that, they go on to the capital plan and forecast and then the operating budget.
Update – February 17, 2011
Executive Committee Passes Budget
The City’s Executive Committee met today to debate and vote on the water, solid waste, operating and capital budgets. Security guards continued to search bags at the door of this standing-room only committee meeting, but no protests took place today. The Executive Committee voted in favour of all budgets that will now go to City Council for a final review and vote. City Council meets on February 23-25 and 28 to complete the 2011 budget process.
Staff made presentations on all four budgets, property tax rates and the 2012 financial outlook (not good). Following the staff presentations, the Executive Committee and non-committee Councillors reviewed the budgets, asking questions of staff, making statements and putting forward motions.
- The City’s 2012 financial outlook anticipates a hole of more than $700 million in the 2012 budget. After taking into account additional revenues such as a 10 cent TTC fare increase and inflationary increase to property taxes, City staff are still left with a structural deficit of $530 million before any added expenses. The staff outlook also assumes revenue from the land transfer tax that the Mayor wants to eliminate next year. Staff suggest that the remaining $530 million may be covered by cost cutting, unanticipated surplus, provincial funding for TTC operations. Describing different scenarios for addressing the structural deficit, staff mentioned possible asset sales without naming specific assets. The federal government withdrawal from social housing funding was also identified as a significant pressure.
- Programs debated included downspout disconnection program, basement flooding, lead pipe and lead mitigation programs, low flow toilets and water efficiency programs, and solid waste budgets. Several Councillors raised concerns about cuts to various programs and our city’s direction regarding water efficiency. Responding to several comments about the impact of program cuts on marginalized groups, Councillor Del Grande spoke at length about the need to make tough decisions because of budget constraints. He said, “I worry when I hear about the widows and the orphans, the woe is this and woe is that.” He said when people say costs are negligible that “those negligibles add up”. He advised Councillors to “get off the widows and orphans argument” and that it was no longer business as usual.
- The Toronto Region Conservation Authority asked for an interest-free loan to purchase a property for its headquarters. Executive Committee members wanted more detailed information including a business plan for the proposal before considering the request.
- Toronto Public Library requested funds to do a feasibility study to create a walkway between the Scarborough Civic Centre, Scarborough Town Centre and the local library. Funds were requested from the land acquisition reserve fund which was set aside for improvements to this area. Councillor De Baeremaeker spoke in favour of the motion, but it did not pass. Committee members commented that the motion should not come forward in the 11th hour of the budget process.
- There was quite a kerfuffle around a streetcar maintenance facility. The City has over 200 streetcars on order and requires a maintenance and storage location for the streetcars. According to Councillor Stintz, the TTC chair, a new facility is essential. The TTC has been working on the issue for two years, having identified and assessed at least 26 properties and making a decision to open a yard at Ashbridges Bay in the Beaches to house about half of the new streetcars. The purchase was part of the TTC capital budget in recent years. Several Beaches residents oppose the decision and have deputed to the TTC. Councillor McMahon from the Beach sent a letter to the Budget Committee asking for a 90-day moratorium on any action on the streetcar yard. The Mayor also opposes the decision on the grounds that the City cannot afford the cost. The Budget Committee referred Councillor McMahon’s letter to the TTC board. TTC staff have been working with Councillor McMahon to try to mitigate the impact of the yard on local residents. At its February 2 meeting, the TTC decided against the 90-day moratorium and awarded a contract to a company to clean up contaminated soil at the Ashbridges Bay site, a first step towards preparing the yard for streetcars. The TTC reported back to the Budget Committee on the Ashbridges Bay decision, and the issue was then referred to Executive Committee.
- At Executive Committee, Councillors began to debate the issue until it became clear that a contract had already been awarded to begin the soil clean up. Mayor Ford again expressed his objections to the costs of the project, and Councillor McMahon spoke against the site location at Ashbridges Bay. Senior City staff then explained that they were only just learning that a contract had already been awarded and that they did not believe that City Council could make any change to the location choice. The Mayor was visibly aggravated, commenting that “a major, major mistake has been made, which is very very concerning.”
- Some stern questioning was put to staff, including comments from Councillor Mammoliti asking the TTC manager if he was not aware that it is not business as usual at City Hall and that did he not think to call before this decision was made. The TTC manager remarked that the TTC board made a decision against the Councillor’s request for a moratorium and had continued to fulfill the direction of the board which had been developed over the past two years – all decisions made in a public meeting.
- Councillor Stintz then spoke making clear how the process and decision-making had unfolded. Mayor Ford then asked City staff to report back at next week’s City Council meeting on how this situation had come to pass.
- There was also considerable debate over the Budget Committee’s recommendation to eliminate free registered adult recreation programs at the city’s 21 Priority Centres. Priority Centres are located in low income neighbourhoods and provide all programs for free. Staff anticipate a savings of $200,000 in 2011 and $400,000 in 2012 from introduction of fees. However it became clear from Councillor questions to staff that some of these “savings” are simply a transfer of City funds from one envelope (Welcome Policy to subsidize recreation programs) to another (recreation fee revenues). It’s unclear how much income from fee-paying registrants is expected. Youth and seniors enrolled in adult recreation programs would also be charged under this major policy shift. The average cost of programs is $68. Currently there are about 9,000 program registrants. Staff anticipated that at least 20% will not continue in registered programs if fees are introduced. Low income residents would be able to apply for the Welcome Policy to have fees waived, but staff also anticipate that the funds are not adequate to meet the need Welcome Policy funds for the first quarter of the year have already expired.
- Councillors McConnell, Fletcher and Davis spoke strongly against this major policy shift that will affect thousands of residents. Councillor Davis attempted to move a motion requiring staff to hold public consultations on the service program plan that staff are currently developing, but no members of Executive Committee would take carriage of her motion. In March, staff are expected to bring forward recommendations about changing the Welcome Policy from a program based subsidy to a dollar based subsidy. Staff will also bring forward a recreation service plan later in the year. Both items will go to the Community Development and Recreation Committee.
- The Executive Committee passed all budgets, keeping in place all cuts recommended by the Budget Committee.
Update – February 10, 2011
With police, security guards and barriers erected at the doors of City Hall this morning, it was clearly not going to be business as usual. After having our bags searched by security in Committee Room 1, we took our seats for the final wrap-up session at Budget Committee. I was informed that they were looking for flyers, and individuals with the intent to distribute said flyers.
The meeting began with staff presentations on the 2012 financial outlook: http://www.toronto.ca/budget2011/pdf/ltfp_update_feb_10_2011.pdf CFO Cam Weldon described possible approaches to addressing the future funding gap, involving increased revenues, service efficiencies/cost containment, asset sales, provincial funding for TTC operating costs and social housing upload. Counter to the Mayor’s position that the City has a spending problem not a revenue problem, Mr. Weldon said the City has both a revenue and spending problem requiring action on both fronts, as well as, provincial funding for TTC operating costs and a share of the HST. Staff recommendations in the 2012 outlook include: City Council maintain the land transfer tax in 2012 until the deficit is eliminated (in contrast to the Mayor’s plan to eliminate it), increase property taxes by 2% and raise TTC fares by 10 cents. Even after taking into account these and other measures, staff anticipate a funding gap of $530 million that will require either cuts, further revenue increases (which could include increased user fees, higher property tax increase or introduction of new tax forms) and/or funding from senior orders of government such as provincial TTC funding.
Financial staff continued with a second presentation on City budgets and financial reporting: http://www.toronto.ca/budget2011/pdf/presentation11_budget_vs_financial_reporting_feb_10_2011.pdf Attention began to turn to the growing number of people entering the committee room, and the sound of a distant drum, growing louder moment by moment. Committee chair Mike Del Grande instructed the security guard to shut the door. However the drumming was still quite audible. A moment later, members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty began a protest in and outside of Committee Room 1, shutting down the Budget Committee meeting for more than an hour. Protesters spoke out against the budget cuts and the impact on people living in poverty, as well as, the Mayor’s move to contract out public services. Police and security moved on the protesters, and according to media reports, two people were arrested. About one hundred activists took part in the demonstration, including a talented drum band that had many protesters and onlookers grooving to the beat. Check out the media coverage: http://www.thestar.com/news/article/936252–get-a-job-doug-ford-tells-ocap-protester
The committee reconvened about one hour later. Finance staff continued their presentations with questions from Councillors. Councillor Davis noted that recent decisions such as the elimination of the vehicle registration tax and property tax freeze have been a move backwards for the City as indicated by the staff report. It was noted that the recommended 2% property tax increase in 2012 would bring in $47 million, and that the elimination of the vehicle registration tax increases the funding gap by $64 million. Referring to the staff report which included a worst case scenario where revenues fall and costs increase, Councillor Perks asked if this was an accurate characterization for this year’s budget. Staff responded that moving forward they would have concerns about a budget with no tax increases and reduced revenue diversification.
Mr. Weldon commented on how the City has reached the end of the road for one-time strategies for addressing the structural funding gap. This year, the City will conduct service level reviews, detailed service efficiency reviews, the development of a comprehensive user fee policy, procurement policy and practice review and an asset monetization review, all with an eye to addressing the gap.
In response to considerable public pressure, the TTC board reversed its decision on 7 of 48 bus routes identified for cuts. The reversal on these 7 routes resulted in a $3 million cost. The board decided to cut $3.2 million affecting 75 positions. A total of $200,000 was transferred into the non-program expense budget. These position cuts affect supervisor positions, increased gapping and reduction to escalator maintenance budgets. The TTC also had to find $8 million to cover its 10 cent fare hike reversal. It increased revenues by $7 million and reduced the overtime expenditure by $1 million to balance the books. The City had to find $9 million in its budget to cover the TTC fare freeze. These funds were made up from a reduction in the Toronto Police Service budget and a decrease in the non-program expenditure budget.
A new report from the City Librarian identified a development charge reserve fund that could be used to eliminate the $400,000 cut to the library collections budget. Staff raised some concerns that in 2014 there may be limited funds to cover any unexpected expenses related to three scheduled library projects. Councillor Davis asked the Budget Committee members to take carriage of her motion to use the development charge reserve to reverse the cut to collections. Councillor Lee took carriage of Councillor Davis’ motion but the motion was defeated with Councillors Di Giorgio, Parker, Berardinetti and Ford voting against it.
The committee and guest Councillors had a long discussion about funding bed bug prevention/elimination programs. For each dollar the City commits, the Province will put up $3. At the City Council meeting this week, Council voted in favour of freezing their own wages, resulting in a savings of $110,000 that had been included in the staff recommended budget. On the floor of Council, Councillor Mihevc asked Council to use the savings to increase funding to student nutrition programs. Many Councillors supported this recommendation and the item was referred to Budget Committee for consideration. Following the City Council meeting, Councillor Del Grande relayed that he met with Councillors Mihevc, Milczyn and Crisanti to discuss the issue. A decision was made that Councillor Del Grande would move a motion to make an inflationary increase to the student nutrition program and put the remaining funds into a reserve accounts for future inflationary increases. In discussion at the Budget Committee, Councillor Fletcher requested that the funds intended for reserve accounts be used to leverage provincial funds for bed bug prevention/elimination programs. She stated that her intention on the floor of Council was to move all $110,000 to student nutrition, but if this was not possible, the remaining funds should go to bed bug programs where they are desperately needed. Councillor Parker took carriage of Councillor Fletcher’s motion and it was carried with vocal support from most of the committee – a rare moment of consensus among Councillors across the political spectrum and described by Councillor Milczyn as “Council at its best.” Councillor Del Grande took pains to describe his support for the spirit of Councillor Fletcher’s motion, but first voted in favour of the original plan with allocations to the student nutrition program and reserve funds, as he had made a commitment to Councillor Mihevc (who was not present at the meeting). When this motion failed, all Councillors present supported the motion to divide funds between student nutrition and bed bugs.
The Budget Committee passed motions in support of the capital and operating budgets. The meeting concluded with a discussion of TTC special constable officers and police working in the TTC. In past years, City Council passed motions to reduce the number of special constable officers in response to the increased use of police in the TTC, and moved to limit the role and authority of special constables. This latter move was related to concerns that special constables were not adequately trained to address certain policing issues on the job, and that police officers should be doing the job. Despite requirements by Council to reduce the number of special constables, the TTC board kept the number of constables at 100 instead of 90, taking funds from other TTC sources to cover the cost. Councillor Milczyn suggested that the number of constables should be maintained at 100. There was some discussion about the salaries of special constables vs. police officers, but no staff reports were available to clarify the issue. Councillor Ford responded that special constables should not be paid more than police officers, and that he supported contracting out this work to private security firms to ‘get a bigger bang for our buck’. The meeting concluded with the issue being referred to Executive Committee.
Executive Committee meets on Thursday, February 17 at 9:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1 for budget review.
Update – February 9, 2011
On January 17, SPT hosted a member forum on the City’s 2011 budget. Councillor Shelley Carroll generously agreed to speak at the forum. A video of her presentation is now available at http://vimeo.com/19678905 As well, SPT’s 2011 City of Toronto Operating Budget Highlights document is posted at http://socialplanningtoronto.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/2011-City-of-Toronto-Operating-Budget-Highlights.pdf
The Budget Committee completes final wrap up of the budget tomorrow, February 10, at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall, Committee Room 1. After wrap up, the budget goes to the Executive Committee on Thursday, February 17 at 9:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1, and finally to City Council on February 23-25, 28. City Council meetings are held in Council Chambers starting at 9:30 a.m.
Update – February 4, 2011
SPT Intern Jeff Roulston compiled the following notes on the East York (January 19) and Scarborough (January 20) budget consultations. These notes detail many but not all of the deputants present at both consultations, as both hearings went quite long.
East York Civic Centre – January 19, 2011
Held in the tiny council chambers of East York Civic Centre, the meeting was quite crowded and half of the available seating was actually outside the room, with the chamber doors left open allowing for a view of the meeting. It appeared, however, that those outside the chambers could not hear the speakers or councillors very well, and although most speakers commended the committee for having a consultation in East York, speakers complained about the facility and acoustics all night.
Budget Committee Chair Mike Del Grande chaired the meeting and Budget Committee members Michelle Berardinetti and Chin Lee and guest Councillors Mary Margaret McMahon, Janet Davis, Mary Fragedakis, Adam Vaughan, Gord Perks and Kristyn Wong-Tam attended. Speakers were given five minutes to speak and Councillors allowed to ask clarifying questions only.
1) Nicholas Volk spoke on the importance of investment in affordable housing and how it contributes to better health and education for residents and their children. He supported the $233 million in the budget for affordable housing.
2) Toronto Real Estate Board President Bill Johnston spoke in favour of the proposed budget and called it fiscally responsible and commended the Mayor and his administration for its plan to eliminate the Land Transfer Tax.
*Councillor Vaughan asked Mr. Johnston if he knew that the Land Transfer Tax earned $266 million in revenue for the city last year and if he had evidence that that had a negative effect on the real estate market. In response, Mr. Johnston challenged councillors that voted in favour of the land transfer tax. Councillor Vaughan then asked if Mr. Johnston knew that to replace the revenue generated by the land transfer tax the city would need a 13% property tax hike. Mr. Johnston said that he didn’t believe that question was relevant, which drew some laughter from the crowd.
3) Toronto Open Budget Initiative (TOBI) co-chair Marc Piccinato commended Council for holding public consultations in the inner suburbs, the move to introduce the capital and operating budgets closer together and the Councillors who are organizing constituent town halls and budget information sessions. Mr. Piccinato went on to identify problems with the budget process – no downtown or day time budget sessions, need for more time to absorb the budget implications, need for input earlier in the budget process before all the real decisions have been made.
*Councillor Perks asked Mr. Piccinato if the as-yet-unannounced $15 million in TTC cuts would worry him and if another as-yet-unannounced $16 million in cuts to other divisions would worry him. Mr. Piccinato answered “yes” to both.
*Councillor Vaughan asked if Mr. Piccinato if he had a chance to review the TTC or Police budgets before making his deputation, to which he answered “no.” Councillor Vaughan: “Neither did we!”
4) Linsey MacPhee of the Toronto Drop-In Network talked about her concern with the burden that the proposed budget places on the poor, with its cuts to the TTC, recreation services and flatlining of community grants. About half of her organizations 50 drop-ins are supported by Community Partnership Investment Project (CPIP) grants and she insisted that her clients will need much more expensive services if there is not further investment in those grants, including healthcare and policing. She also spoke against the $100,000 cuts to the Tenant Defence Fund and Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA), as it will lead to evictions and homelessness.
*Councillor Vaughan: “Does the Toronto Drop-In Network operate in Scarborough? (Yes) Etobicoke? (Yes) East York? (Yes) York? (Yes) North York? (Yes) Downtown? (Yes) Then would it be a good way to save taxpayers’ money to cut CPIP grants, because they supposedly only serve the downtown, to beef up the Police budget?” MacPhee responded that cutting back services like those offered by the Toronto Drop-In Network and similar organizations would lead to more spending on policing.
5) Bruce Rivers of Community Living Toronto spoke in support of the 90,000 Torontonians with intellectual disabilities that receive Ontario Disability Support Program. He reported that many Canadian cities offer reduced transit fares for those with disabilities and that in Chicago they ride for free. He suggested that ODSP recipients pay 50% fares on the TTC.
Councillor Vaughan cited a recent newspaper article that described Community Living Toronto as a “local service organization” that only serves people of his ward (20) where its headquarters is, and asked if that was true. Rivers replied “no” and that Community Living operates 80 sites across the city.
6) Elizabeth Block spoke in favour of Transit City, citing the city’s lack of money and the Ford administration’s war on wasteful spending as reasons why the light rail plan, that will serve 10 times as many Torontonians, would make more sense.
7) Mark Ferguson of Toronto Civic Employee Union Local 416 called cutting taxes and eliminating other revenue sources in the same breath “financially irresponsible” and noted that the proposed budget cuts 397 badly needed jobs. He was happy to see garbage services weren’t contracted out because contractors pay their workers much lower wages. Mr. Ferguson also asserted that the 200-plus job vacancies in transportation reduce services and service quality.
*Councillor Vaughan asked what other shortcomings are created by contracting-out city services. Mr. Ferguson replied that due to contractors’ cost-cutting efforts and low worker wages, the services delivered are of lower quality.
*Councillor Perks asked if gapping causes problems in other city divisions and if he agrees that Toronto is really short 90 ambulance drivers, as was presented at the Budget Committee presentations last week. Ferguson answered “yes” to both, and said that the estimate of EMS needing 90 ambulance staff was a conservative one.
8) John Van Burek of Pleiades Theatre and Toronto Arts Council spoke about what a great return on investment arts spending provides, as for every dollar invested by the city in the arts, six dollars are raised from the private sector and eight dollars earned in ticket sales. He recommended that the city continue with its original goal of increasing arts spending from the current $18 per capita to $25 per capita.
9) A representative of the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) spoke on the importance of poverty reduction, healthcare and creating welcoming communities for newcomers. He spoke against the cut to the Tenant Defence Fund, as it would affect choice and mobility between units, two important factors already lacking in this community. Finally, they spoke against the move of homeless adults from shelters to motels, the waiting list for social housing and the cuts to TTC routes, which he says connect members of the South Asian community from low-income neighbourhoods to work and school and are essential to this community which relies heavily on low-paying jobs with “odd hours.”
10) Camilla Holland of the Toronto Arts Council reiterated the 14 to 1 return on investment achieved by arts spending and noted that 30,000 artists are supported through arts grants, 35,000 volunteers are contributing to the community as well and $225 million is pumped into Toronto’s economy through the arts. She recommended that the billboard tax be dedicated to the arts.
11) Jacoba Knaapen represented the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts and insisted that her member companies are not elitist and serve a multicultural audience, including 100,000 students and 30,000 youth through their HipTix program.
*Councillor Vaughan: “If you pull the rug out from under the arts organizations, will we be able to create an international profile for Toronto?” (No)
12) The Toronto International Film Festival was represented by Maxine Bailey and two teenagers who are members of TIFF’s youth council. These deputants spoke about the power of arts funding. When the ED of ImagiNative Film Festival went over their allotted time, Chair Mike Del Grande cut them off to the objections of all the other guest councillors. Councillor Del Grande called a recess of a few minutes, after which he allowed the young people to tell their stories about how they’ve been engaged by TIFF’s programs, which ended up taking less than a minute.
13) Hamish Wilson was concerned at how compressed and sped up the budget process is this year and wondered aloud how the budget committee and guest councillors could possibly take in so much information and apply it to the budget in a way that would better the city. Mr. Wilson said that it is time that the cost of cars be added to the budget as a line item in the same way transit and bikes (bike lanes) are since cars are causing all the costs of paving, road infrastructure and general road maintenance. Since drivers get a break on the Vehicle Registration Tax and transit riders, who pay to ride, get cuts to 48 bus routes, Mr. Wilson claims (acknowledging that cars costs money) that drivers get a free ride while transit users must pay for less service.
14) Miguel Avila spoke to the committee wearing a black and pink tee that read “Latino Pinko” and supported a budget increase for the Ombudsman’s Office and criticized the proposed end to free recreation programs at Priority Centres.
15) Saira Peesker, a team captain in the Toronto Roller Derby spoke against the cuts to the Downsview Park 101 bus, one of the 48 routes facing possible cuts, on the basis that 75% of its players use the TTC to get to games and practices, not to mention those using the basketball, beach volleyball, soccer, go karting and other facilities.
16) David Kidd, a homeowner in the Woodbine area of East York that was born at Toronto East General Hospital across the street from East York Civic Centre, did not support the flatlining of the budget during a recession when libraries and community centres are affected.
17) Geordie Dent of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations criticized the cuts to the Tenant Defence Fund which he says will drastically reduce FMTA’s ability to assist clients at a time when landlord applications for above-guideline rent increases has quadrupled in the last two years and the United Way’s Vertical Poverty report calls for increased assistance for tenants.
A considerable list of deputants followed, with the hearing wrapping up around midnight.
Scarborough Civic Centre – January 20, 2011
The public hearing at Scarborough Civic Centre was not as crowded as the one in East York, but very well attended. Mayor Ford chaired the meeting until leaving for the York Civic Centre meeting and was replaced briefly as chair by Councillor Doug Holyday and finally by Councillor Doug Ford.
1) Housing Action Now represented by Barbara Hurd, spoke in favour of more resources for the City’s Affordable Housing Office and the need for the City to press other levels of government for a better long-term affordable housing strategy. She quoted the United Way Vertical Poverty report and recommended inclusionary housing policy as a strategy for the city to contribute to affordable housing. She mentioned that there were no cuts to Municipal Licensing and Standards (good) and the bedbug issue and cuts to the Tenant Defence Fund (bad).
2) Colin Hughes of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto expressed concern about sustaining city services with the proposed budget and recommended stronger partnerships with other levels of government to improve community services, as 1 in 3 children in Toronto grow up in poverty. His major concerns: Budget cuts appear to be arbitrary and without community input, cuts to libraries will affect children and adults, moving homeless from shelters to motels. His recommendations were that there be no cuts, that all departments gain budget funding to cover COLA increases and that there be a transparent process to determine “wasteful spending.”
3) Samuel Getachew, a candidate in Scarborough’s Ward 43 this past October, was interested in a more fair process for non-profits to buy used ambulances from Toronto EMS for the purpose of donating it to a city in his native Ethiopia.
4) Sonny Yeung spoke about the fact that the Mayor had not promised a property tax freeze in his campaign, and the costs of freezing taxes. He asked the committee to make sure that the 48 threatened TTC routes, the Tenant Defence Fund, bedbug prevention work, youth services, housing, seniors and childcare are made a priority.
5) Jordan Froese represented NYAD, an organization of childcare providers. He asked the committee not to jeopardize subsidized childcare for 18,000 children and asked they invest in more subsidized spots. He also recommended an itemized property tax bill to help people know what they are paying.
*Councillor Davis asked if the 3,400 potentially lost subsidized spots at the end of 2011 will affect the childcare centres he represents (Yes).
*Councillor Moeser asked if Froese’s organization had approached other levels of government.
6) Jane Mercer from the Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care supported the recommendations of the Children’s Services staff and stressed the importance of child care subsidies.
7) Lisa Baltram is a citizen concerned about the Mayor confronting unions. She spoke in favour of more services for the homeless and disabled and asked that the TTC reverse planned cuts on 48 bus routes.
8) Neethan Shan from the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) said that his community needs more affordable recreation programs. On the 48 TTC routes facing service cuts, he said that many of those routes connect low-income families and places of work and study. In his community, many men and women are forced to work shiftwork at low-paying warehouse jobs and do not ride buses during peak hours, but the times that service will be cut. Mr. Shan also criticized the plan to move homeless adults from shelters to motels and said that the city government needs to engage racialized communities like his in the budget process. He suggested marketing, translated brochures and through ethnic media.
*Councillor Carroll asked if he thought a food allowance was equal to being in a shelter (No)
9) Karen Sun, Toronto Open Budget Initiative, spoke on making the budget process more open and equitable
*Councillor Moeser asked if she thought the budget process had been relatively open the last eight years (somewhat) and how to engage the public on the complexity of the budget, to which she suggested we allow public input early in each city division before the committee gets to the million- and billion-dollar figures that are much harder numbers for residents to crunch.
10) Bev Carrett and the AGO Youth Council talked about how the city funding their program receives has enhanced the experience of the participants.
*Councillor Vaughan: what parts of the city do the participants come from? (All over the city) What communities does your program serve? (All over Toronto and Ontario)
11) Joe Mandat said he didn’t need free healthcare when he came to Canada and that immigration is the reason for the city’s problems (to great boos). Councillor Ford responded at the conclusion of Mr. Mandat’s depuation that, “we understand that’s how this country was built,” and continued, “You know, some people think there is a machine that just prints money,” which resulted in a few catcalls.
12) The Council of Canadians’ representative spoke out against fluoride from toxic waste being added to our drinking water and the fact that it is impossible to nail down the cost of this program because it is hidden in different parts of the budget.
13) Scott Harrison, a former school board trustee, represented the 35-year-old Scarborough Firefighters Hockey League and commented that they can no longer afford to play in a city-owned facility due to rising ice time fees. He also suggested that the Pan-Am Games Aquatic Centre be built at the same location the former City of Scarborough planned to build an aquatic centre: on city land at Midland and Lawrence, right next to a subway station and at a much lower cost.
14) Winnie Ng from Good Jobs For All opposed the cuts to 48 under-used bus routes, maintaining that low-income workers and newcomers depend on the buses to go to work.
15) ACORN members spoke against the cuts to the Tenant Defence Fund and stressed its importance in fighting above-guideline rent increases and sub-standard conditions in many rental apartment buildings.
*Councillor Vaughan asked if tax cuts to residential property owners have been passed on to tenants (Sometimes yes, but even then the landlords have applied for increases to restore higher rents)
16) Ann Dembinski, president of CUPE Local 79, spoke as a citizen of Ward 35 and in opposition to the proposal to have programs at the nearly-finished Warden Hilltop Community Centre contracted out to individuals and organizations instead of run by the city. She said that the people of her community just want the same service that other communities in Scarborough and across the city receive.
*Councillor De Baeremaker asked if it is true that Warden Hilltop Rec Centre was built with Section 37 funds and has yet to cost taxpayers a cent (Yes).
*Councillor Thompson asked Ms. Dembinski several questions about unionized workers and the running of the community centre.
17) Angelina Vaz of Woodgreen Community Services spoke on investment in housing, child care, settlement and services for seniors.
Several deputants followed with the session ending after 11 p.m.
Update – January 25, 2011
Today was the second of a two day wrap up session at the Budget Committee. This meeting covered several motions and reports from the Toronto Water, operating and capital budgets.
- Councillor Davis requested that staff provide a briefing note that breaks down the amount of unsustainable reserve funds used to balance the 2011 budget and show the projections for 2012 and 2013. Her intention is to better understand the sustainability of the budget. In a rare moment, a Budget Committee member took carriage of her motion. Budget Committee members must take carriage/move a motion on behalf of non-Budget Committee members in order for the committee to consider the motion. Otherwise, the motion is simply received as information and no vote is taken on the motion. Yesterday (while I was in attendance until 4 p.m.), Budget Committee members declined to take carriage of any motions from non-Budget Committee members. Today, Councillor Parker took carriage of Councillor Davis’ motion for this briefing note and it passed.
- On the Toronto Water budget, several motions to reverse cuts to water efficiency programs were received (rather than adopted), leaving the cuts in place. Councillor Del Grande moved two motions to institute a moratorium on the voluntary downspout disconnection program and drain grant program. I believe that these programs prevent sewage back-up and basement flooding. Councillor Del Grande’s motions were carried. Under the moratorium, no work will be done and no funds will be spent on these programs in 2011. At present, 13,000 households are on the waiting list for the voluntary downspout disconnection program, mostly in Scarborough and North York. The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee will be tasked with reviewing these programs and making recommendations for the 2012 budget. Councillor Layton asked how much the City would spend informing these 13,000 households that they are on hold. Councillor Del Grande said there would be no cost but didn’t explain how/if they would be informed of the moratorium. Check in with the committee to keep track of this issue and make a public deputation when the review comes before committee: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/decisionBodyProfile.do?function=doPrepare&decisionBodyId=370#Meeting-2011.PW1
- A staff report on last Wednesday and Thursday’s public consultations on the budget was received by the Budget Committee. The report included copies of all of the written submissions submitted at the public consultations. These written submissions don’t appear to be online but the names of deputants are included along with a very brief summary of the deputations.
- Here’s the staff report summing up the sessions:
“In total, 198 deputations were heard at the four meetings. The breakdown is as follows:
Meeting No. of Deputations
Toronto & East York 65
North York 38
York Etobicoke 42
Many of the deputants were speaking on behalf of an organization but the majority of deputants were speaking as citizens. Several of the deputants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to appear at the local civic centre, although some expressed desire to allow for deputations during the day and some were concerned that downtown was excluded as a meeting site.
While there were a wide range of views expressed at the meeting, some of the more common topics raised were:
1) Proposed reductions to TTC bus routes
2) Proposed reductions to the tenant defence budget
3) Continued City support for arts and cultural organizations
4) Priority Centre proposed reductions
5) Park’s User Fee Increases
6) Bed Bugs
7) False Alarm Fees
8) The size of the City’s structural deficit and sustainability of Recommended
Many deputants expressed a willingness to pay a small property tax increase to maintain service levels while others expressed satisfaction with holding the line on spending and taxes.”
From the two public consultations I attended (North York and York), I would say that those expressing “satisfaction with holding the line on spending and taxes” was a very small number.
Budget item with links to staff reports on public consultations: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2011.BU8.5
The staff report providing the summary of the deputations: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2011/bu/bgrd/backgroundfile-35209.pdf
To inquire about the public written submissions, I would suggest contacting the Budget Committee clerk: Merle MacDonald, firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-392-7340. Staff will also be bringing forward to the Budget Committee public correspondence received on the budget outside of the four consultations.
- Councillor Davis asked City staff if they would make any changes to the budget based on the public consultations. CFO Cam Weldon responded that these decisions are now in the Budget Committee’s hands. Councillor Davis directed her question to Budget Chief Councillor Del Grande. Councillor Del Grande replied “as much as the budget allows us to, where money can be transferred, to the extent possible” saying he could make no guarantees. [During the Budget Committee’s wrap up session today and yesterday, I am not aware of any changes that have been made to the budget as a result of public consultations, save bus route cuts that may or may not change.] Councillor Davis asked if any changes would be made on February 10 when the committee meets for final wrap up. Councillor Del Grande said that the bus routes are the main issue and the TTC is reviewing that decision. He said there’s no money for the $25 per capita arts funding and that any changes in the budget require an offset – increased funding in one area of the budget requires a corresponding decrease elsewhere, or I suppose an increase in revenue of an equal amount. However the Budget Committee has not entertained any discussion of property tax increases as per the Mayor’s direction.
- Councillor Vaughan asked staff about gaps in the budget. The TTC fare freeze means the TTC has to find $8 million in cuts (or increased revenue) in their budget and the City has to find $7 million in cuts (or increased revenue) to cover the cost. The TTC also has to make a decision about cuts to the 48 bus routes. If they reverse all of those cuts, they will have to find an additional $7 million in cuts (or increased revenue) elsewhere in the TTC budget.
- Councillor Davis commented on the public consultations, saying that people said they were prepared to pay a little more in property taxes to protect services, that they recognized there is no free lunch. She also spoke against the decision to cut the vehicle registration tax without considering the impact on services. Councillor Vaughan also spoke about the cuts that the Budget Committee considers minor and the public considers major. He went on to read several comments from readers on media websites responding to the budget. He said the budget was made in the Mayor’s office, not by the Budget Committee, and has broken almost every single one of the Mayor’s election promises.
- Councillor Milczyn said one day Councillor Vaughan will be working in the media again and can be “our own Glenn Beck”. He said all of the money except for .169% of the budget is accounted for, suggesting that the budget process is further along than it would normally be by late January. He said the budget process has been shortened and constrained but that the committee had been transparent about that since the beginning. Councillor Milczyn said the budget is unsustainable because the previous administration had added hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs in the last term of Council.
- Councillor Ford said he is receiving many calls saying they haven’t cut enough and complaining that the City is still hiring more people. He said that the Council has received a clear mandate that people want less government and to stop wasteful spending. He said there is “more gravy [at the City] than there is at Thanksgiving” and that they haven’t gotten to it yet, that they have just gotten the “low hanging fruit”. He said moving forward they will be looking at all spending, “every piece of paper, every roll of toilet paper”. Councillor Ford said the City will bring in experts to do the line by line review, looking at lean practices. He said every department has fat. He guessed there was 10% waste, and that they would cut waste not services. He said it takes 2-3 public servants to do what 1 person does in the private sector, referring to Etobicoke garbage collection as an example. He said the Council needs to break the union’s monopoly to introduce competition and that unions will have to compete. He said the unions have never had to be accountable. He said the City needs to outsource everything that they can. Councillor Ford also said that he makes a distinction between the labour leaders and the workers, and that he has no problem with either as long as they compete.
- Councillor Del Grande said that a property tax increase would not be a magical answer. That a 2% increase would only bring in $44 million, not enough to address everything. He said the budget is being used as a political platform to attack the Mayor. He spoke about the number of new jobs at the TTC in the last four years – 2,000 added, with more than 12,000 workers at the TTC. He went on to speak about the ABCs – agencies, boards and commissions like the TTC and Toronto Community Housing. He spoke about ABCs that want the City to pay for everything and say they have their own boards so should be left to govern independently. Councillor Del Grande said the ABCs are not under the same scrutiny as City divisions and that has to change. He went on to talk about the importance of having priorities. This last comment drew a bit of a snicker among some of the non-Budget Committee members. Councillor Del Grande halted his speech to admonish Councillor Perks, remarking “Councillor Perks you are acting like a child not a Councillor. It is unbecoming and embarrassing how you are conducting yourself.” He went on to say “We do have political ideologies (referring to City Council broadly I believe). It is clear that this is not a Council that’s going to come together. It’s obvious from the attacks.” Returning to his speech, Councillor Del Grande said the Budget Committee is doing its best.
- Councillor Davis asked the Budget Committee members to take carriage of the motions put forward at the public consultations, including motions to report on the percentage of deputants who asked for or agreed to a tax increase, those who expressed no opinion, and those who spoke for a tax decrease; the number of deputants who would rather have paid the personal vehicle tax than face major service cuts; the number who supported Transit City and those who supported its cancellation among others. It was a bit unclear to me if any committee members took carriage of these motions. The staff report on public consultations which included these motions was received by the Budget Committee, which would appear to mean that no reports with these details will be forthcoming. See complete list of motions: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2011.BU8.5
- The Budget Committee reversed the Office of the Ombudsman’s recommendation for an additional 2 positions as another cost-cutting measure. During her presentation on January 13, Fiona Creen, the Toronto Ombudsman asked for two additional positions. She said that if the positions were not provided and the 5% cut to her budget was maintained, it would constitute a “major service cut”. That appears to be the situation at present. Here’s my original write up based on her presentation:
- Fiona Creen, the Toronto Ombudsman, did not mince words when it came to the impact of the 5% cut to the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office was established just 20 months ago to respond to constituent complaints about the City of Toronto and the public service. (which would seem to be central to the Mayor’s commitment to “customer service”) As well as addressing individual complaints, the Office is also tasked with labour-intensive systemic reviews to address widespread problems within the City. The Ombudsman asked for funding for an additional two position, and as a backfall position, that the 5% funding cut be returned. She explained that a 5% cut to a new and small office (just 10 staff) has quite a different impact than reductions from more established departments. She stated that without the additional positions and if the 5% cut was maintained it would constitute a “major” service cut. [The Mayor promised no major service cuts.] She explained that currently the Office is not resourced to fulfill its mandate and that in particular, marginalized communities, and residents in the inner suburbs in particular are not having their needs met by the Ombudsman, referring to these residents as second class citizens due to the underfunding of the Office. She made comparisons with comparable Ombudsman Offices in Montreal, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, showing Toronto’s funding for Ombudsman services rock bottom on a per capita basis. She commented that the Office currently lacks resources to respond to all complaints.
- Councillor Perks asked staff how they would make their recommendations regarding cutting $7 million to pay for the TTC fare freeze, and whether the public deputations or discussions at Budget Committee would inform that decision. CFO Cam Weldon said they will use the same criteria that they have used so far in making cuts, no major service cuts. Councillor Perks urged Budget Committee members to defer passing the operating budget until they had the full picture, including the unidentified City ($7 million) and TTC funding ($8 million, plus the potential bus route cuts accounting for $7 million) amounts. Councillor Perks went on to say that you can’t make big cuts and think that won’t affect services, that the Budget Committee hasn’t set any priorities, that they haven’t done the work and that there has been “barely a whisper of a breeze to write the occasional motion”. Councillor Perks said the single most important thing that Council must do is ensure a fiscal framework that will deliver services in the long-run and that the current budget sets us up for an iceberg next year, undoing all of the work by the former Council to reduce the structural deficit.
What’s next? The Budget Committee meets for final budget wrap up on Monday, February 10 to address two outstanding issues: The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority budget and the remaining financial issues at the TTC. The meeting takes place at 9:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1. Then the budget is reviewed by the Executive Committee at its Monday, February 17 meeting, starting at 9:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1. After which, the budget review concludes at City Council on February 23-28.
Have questions or concerns about the budget? There are no further opportunities to make public deputations. Instead individuals should contact their Councillor, the Budget Committee and the Mayor (416-397-FORD). Contact info: http://app.toronto.ca/im/council/councillors.jsp
Update – January 24, 2011
Today was the first of two days of wrap up sessions at the Budget Committee. The day started with a staff report on the 2011 re-assessment impacts and 2011 tax rates. http://www.toronto.ca/budget2011/pdf/presentation_2011cva_taxbc.pdf
The City has 6 different property tax classes:
- multi-residential (apartment)
- small business band 1
- residual commercial band 2 (blended)
- commercial general (large properties/towers)
You might think that your property tax bill will be the same as last year because of the Mayor’s proposed property tax freeze. You’d be wrong. 2011 individual property taxes will vary from 2010 for two reasons: 1) reassessment of property values, and 2) a City policy to reduce the ratio between single home residential and other property tax rates. The latter refers to a plan established by the previous Council to set small business, commercial, industrial and multi-residential property taxes at a rate that is 2.5 times that of residential properties by 2015. Currently the ratios range from 2.97 (small business) to 3.31 (multi-residential) vs. 1 (residential).
On average, property values have fallen for residential (-0.63%) and multi-residential (-3.08%) properties, and increased for small business (0.83%), residual commercial (2.26%), commercial general (1.55%) and industrial (2.78%). In order to decrease the tax ratio between residential and other tax classes, the overall tax savings from re-assessment for single home residential properties is being shifted to small business, commercial and industrial properties. The average impact from re-assessment and the tax ratio policy is a 0.0% property tax change for single home residential properties – meaning some will have their taxes go up and some will go down, with the overall change netting out at 0. Under this plan, some of the tax savings from re-assessment for multi-residential properties will also be redistributed to reduce the tax burden for commercial and industrial property classes. Instead of seeing an average tax decrease of 3.08% for apartment buildings, the average property tax cut will be 2.46%. Tenants pay property taxes for multi-residential properties through their monthly rent.
Several Councillors described the redistribution of benefit from tenants to business as unfair. Councillor Perks was perhaps the most outspoken, saying tenants were getting “screwed” in this budget that also includes cuts to Tenant Defence, free adult programming in priority recreation centres and cuts to TTC bus routes.
On average, small business (-0.28%) and industrial (-0.82%) property taxes will go down under this proposed plan. In contrast, residual commercial (1.13%) and commercial general (1.23%) will go up but not as much as they would have based on re-assessment alone.
Property tax bills are sent to property owners in May, and include an education tax set by the provincial government in March.
Councillor Perks moved a motion to adjust 2011 property tax rates so that multi-residential, commercial and industrial rates have the same ratio improvement. All motions proposed by guest Councillors require a member of the Budget Committee to take carriage of the motion in order to be voted on by the Budget Committee. Often Councillors on a committee will move a motion on behalf of a non-committee member as a courtesy. While I was in attendance (until about 4 p.m.), Budget Committee members declined to take carriage of any guest Councillor motions. In these situations, the motions are “received” and no vote is taken on them. All Councillors should have an opportunity to move motions and have them voted on at City Council at the end of February.
Councillor Del Grande said the rejigging of property tax levels related to the 2.5 tax ratio policy are nothing new, and that the policy was passed by the former Council and all Councillors agreed to it. No other members of the Budget Committee spoke to the issue.
City staff have produced a slew of briefing notes providing in-depth information on a variety of budget and policy issues, including recreation, tenant, shelter and community agency information amongst several areas. www.toronto.ca/budget2011 (check left column under “operating” and “capital” for “briefing notes”). The Budget Committee and guest Councillors reviewed briefing notes, reports and motions related to each area of the budget. Check the City’s budget page for all documents. All motions with financial implications were held until tomorrow’s Budget Committee meeting.
I was present for discussion of Toronto Water, solid waste, Toronto Parking Authority, Cluster A (human services) and CPIP (community grants).
- Several Councillors asked questions and raised concerns about cuts and elimination of Toronto Water programs that help with water efficiency, provide lead pipe replacement, and prevent flooding and sewage problems, such as the drain grant and the voluntary downspout disconnection program, among others. At present, approximately 7,100 property owners are on the waiting list for the voluntary downspout disconnection program. Many have been on the list for the past three years, and most are located in the east end of the city in Scarborough and North York. If eliminated, these home owners would not receive the service. Councillor De Baeremaeker was particularly vocal about the inequity of cutting these residents off who have been waiting for so long. Councillor Davis made the point that many of these budget items should have gone to standing committees for a policy review, before being stuck in the budget without public debate.
- A number of Councillors remarked again on the rushed budget process with Councillors only receiving briefing notes that morning. As well, Councillors were given just 5 minutes to ask questions about all briefing notes with each service cluster, such as all human service areas in the operating budget, an additional 5 to make statements and bring forward motions.
- Councillor De Baeremaeker discussed the slow progress on the development of the Scarborough Waterfront Trail. Recent funding has been set a $1 million per year, and will take an estimated 50 years to be completed according to Councillor De Baeremaeker. He expressed his sincere wish that the trail might be completed in his lifetime. The budget wrap up notes include a motion to increase funding to $2 million in the current budget.
- Several Councillors spoke against the proposal to end free adult programming in priority centres. Councillor Carroll previously tabled a motion to reverse the cut with the funds to be offset from within the Parks, Forestry and Recreation budget. The motion was essentially deemed invalid because it did not include a specific offset. All motions with financial implications, such as reversing cuts, require an offset (place where the money will come from to cover the reversal of the cut). PFR identified no offset in the briefing note as requested by Councillor Carroll. Councillor Perks gave it another go moving a motion that the funds to reverse the priority centre cut come from the Parks, Forestry and Recreation’s non-program budget. As was the case with all guest Councillor motions, none of the Budget Committee members were willing to take carriage of Councillor Perks’ motion, meaning there will be no consideration of this motion by the Budget Committee.
- More on recreation: A briefing note suggests about 20% of registered program users at priority centres will drop out of registered programs as a result of user fees, amounting to 550-600 people. Staff said these people may use the free drop-in programs instead. It’s unclear what the space availability is in these drop-in programs if there is a significant increase in use. Councillors raised questions about this figure. Staff responded that they won’t know the effect until the policy is implemented. Staff expect uptake on the Welcome Policy to increase from $75,000 to $77,500 as a result of the end of free adult programs at the priority centres. At present, Welcome Policy funds for the Winter season have been exhausted. It is unclear from the discussion how many low income people attempting to access the Welcome Policy are currently turned away or will be as a result of the priority centre policy change. Staff anticipate that Welcome Policy funds will be exhausted throughout 2011. Funds are divided between the four seasons. Once the season’s funds are used up, low income people no longer have access to subsidies. Councillor Perks questioned the impact of the policy change on non-status immigrants that currently have access to priority centres without documentation. Staff did not seem to understand the issue. Staff reported that the policy change at priority centres would result in an additional capital cost of $25,000-$30,000 for cash handling equipment. Additional staff resources are also needed to process Welcome Policy requests. Councillor Vaughan spoke about Harrison Baths, a priority centre in his ward, used by many homeless people who can get a shower for free. He expressed concerns about the policy change that will push the most vulnerable people out of these centres. Councillor Vaughan also noted that the poorest recreation users aren’t going to come forward at public hearings or contact Councillors, and when non-profit organizations did raise their concerns these agencies were dismissed as entities with a ‘vested interest’ (referring to Councillor Del Grande’s earlier remark).
- Councillor Davis crammed four motions into her short five minutes. It was impressive. Motions: regarding a technical change to a children’s services recommendation approved by staff, reducing recreation user fee increases to 1.5% from 3.0% with an offset from non-program accounts, reversal of Tenant Defence Fund cut, especially the $75,000 for tenant support services, and a deferral of the decision about priority centres to be referred to the Community Development and Recreation Committee for a policy discussion. Budget Committee members would not take carriage of any of these motions, not even the technical motion on the children’s budget which contained no financial implications.
- Councillor Fletcher spoke in favour of bed bug funding, urging the committee to accept the Medical Officer of Health recommendation for funding to prevent and respond to bed bugs.
- On the CPIP community grants budget including arts funding, community social service funding and student nutrition. In a previous meeting, Councillor Ford had commented that if anything deserved increased funding it was student nutrition programs, and that this program was close to the Mayor’s heart. Councillor Mihevc had said he would speak with Councillor Ford and Mayor Ford. At today’s meeting, Councillor Perks followed up with staff on this issue. Staff were unaware of any discussion to change this budget item. Councillor Ford had not yet made it to the meeting to shed light on this issue. (We later learned he had been held up at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.)
- Last week, Councillor Ford had made some comments in the press about certain wards having an unfair share of community grants. Councillor Vaughan responded to this issue, explaining that he has many grant-receiving agencies in his ward that provide city-wide services not simply local ward-specific programs. A staff report will be coming forward with a more accurate breakdown of agencies by ward, taking in account city-wide agencies. City staff commented that it is challenging to report on agencies that are neither city-wide nor strictly local, but rather serve multiple wards in the city. Councillor McConnell made similar comments saying Councillor Ford had misapplied the raw data. Councillor Milczyn asked if it wasn’t possible to redistribute funding within the community grants envelope to allow for an inflationary increase to agencies. Staff said those decisions are made by Council during the allocation process in the Spring not by staff. If Council decides to redistribute CPIP funds to make inflationary increases to programs such as student nutrition, it would mean cuts to agencies that are not deemed a priority by Council. Councillor Mihevc made a case for student nutrition programming saying that City funds amount to only 12% of total funding, with other funds leveraged from the Province (12%) and families and the private sector (75%). The funding increase would allow for the expansion of the student nutrition program into 30 more schools.
- Councillor Milczyn also asked if funding could not be found within the Toronto Public Health or Shelter, Support and Housing budget for bed bug prevention. This would involve making a cut within one or both of these budgets.
- Councillor Carroll made a strong case for the CPIP community grants program, reminding Councillors that funding to this program is highly, highly leveraged as it allows agencies to get funding from other funders as well as private donors. She spoke in favour of the arts and their economic impact. She also pointed out that cuts to CPIP would increase the demand from City employee provided services that cost more, such as public health nurses if AIDS/HIV funding was cut for example. She said a 0% increase is not sustainable. A briefing note identifies that financial pressures on non-profit organizations receiving CPIP funding. Councillor Vaughan spoke about how cuts to CPIP would result in pressures on police services, because CPIP services promote community development and prevent small problems from turning into large ones. He went on to say “would I like to replicate the Scadding Court model across the city, yes I would. If that makes me a tax and spend socialist so be it.” He also spoke about disappearing youth services in his ward.
For more details on today’s Budget Committee agenda: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/decisionBodyProfile.do?function=doPrepare&meetingId=4548#Meeting-2011.BU8
Update – January 21, 2011
Note time change for January 22 downtown public information session on the budget: Councillors Vaughan, McConnell and Wong-Tam are hosting a community forum on the budget on Saturday, January 22 from 2-4 p.m. at City Hall in Council Chambers. This event was originally advertised as from 1-3 p.m. Please note the correction. The forum runs from 2-4 p.m.
City budget watch – Day 2 of public consultations on the budget
Last night, the Budget Committee held its second and final day of public consultations on the City budget. I attended the consultation at the York Civic Centre. Deputants overwhelmingly spoke in favour of investment in City and community services including some advocating for a property tax increase as a responsible measure to pay for the city we want. About 40 people made deputations. By my count, only 1 deputant spoke in favour of the property tax freeze. I left the session around 10 p.m. with about 5 deputants yet to speak.
The York deputants:
1&2) Israt Ahmed, Community Planner, Social Planning Toronto and Fana Seife, Board Member, Social Planning Toronto – spoke on creating a budget that supports the vision of the city we want. They spoke against end of free recreation for adults in priority centres, cuts to the Tenant Defence Fund and a move to have under 100 adult shelter users moved to motels.
3&4) Sima Depiwal, Toronto Arts Council and Curtis Barlow, Toronto Arts Council and Fort York Foundation - spoke on the importance of arts and its value to youth. Mr. Barlow noted that for every dollar invested an additional $6 in private sector funds is leveraged and $8 in ticket sales is realized. They asked for Council to honour its commitment to $25 per capita in arts funding by 2013 and have all billboard tax revenue directed to arts as had been the impetus for the creation of the tax.
Councillor Perks asked if the deputants favoured a small property tax increase to pay for services. Mr. Barlow responded that is Council’s decision to sort out.
5) Speaker from Arts Etobicoke – spoke on the arts and children and youth
6) Susan Nagy, Executive Director, Lakeshore Arts – Ms. Nagy was joined by 14-year old Rachel D’Souza who wowed the crowd with her compelling argument for funding the arts based on her experience as an arts program participant.
7) Cindy McCarthy, Executive Director, Terry Tan Child Care – spoke about the importance of the City’s ongoing support to maintain 24,000 subsidized child care spots and the considerable pressures on child care providers today.
Councillor Doucette asked if full-day kindergarten would lessen those pressures. Ms. McCarthy responded that it is a complex issue which because of funding arrangements will actually make things more difficult in child care, although providers support the move and want to see it fully funded.
8) Lena Serdyuk, small commercial property owner – spoke in support of the property tax freeze. She spoke about the challenges of small business owners and high property taxes.
Councillor Del Grande said that the argument will be made that we need to pay for a vibrant city and to pay for services we need a property tax increase and asked Ms. Serdyuk her reaction. She responded that high property taxes will lead to businesses closing leaving vacant buildings that will bring in less taxes.
9) Mark Ferguson, Local 416 – spoke against the property tax freeze referring to the ¼ million hole in the budget left from Mel Lastman’s tax freezes. He referred to the tax freeze as fiscally irresponsible with no regard for future years. He thanked the committee for not contracting out solid waste pick-up and disposal, noting that some private companies had violated health and safety standards and had done illegal dumping. As well, he spoke about the $4 million saved from “contracting in” solid waste collection in North York from the private sector to the public sector. He went on to speak about the effects of flatlining and gapping that are eroding services, including serious problems for EMS.
10) Livia Prince, senior homeowner – Ms. Prince gave a moving deputation on the struggles she faces to keep her home with fixed income and rising costs. She requested property tax relief for seniors to help them stay in their homes. She spoke about feeling fear and stress about how she will make ends meet.
Councillor Perks asked her if she thought the land transfer tax should be cut (proposal for next year) resulting in increased property taxes to make up the revenue. Ms. Prince said she doesn’t want to move from her house and that the land transfer tax may be necessary to pay for services and keep property taxes down.
11) Steve Tasses, Chair, Eglinton Hill BIA – spoke in support of the Eglinton LRT and Transit City. He asked if there was money in the budget for the community centre in York. York does not currently have a community centre. He also asked what was happening with the Kodak Land development and the need for job creation in the community.
Councillor Colle asked Mr. Tasses if they can afford to wait to build the rapid transit line on Eglinton. Mr. Tasses agreed they could not. Councillor Lindsay Luby asked for clarification if he wanted a subway to the airport or light rail. Mr. Tasses said subway, light rail, “horse and cart” whatever will get us there. Councillor Perks said there is no money in the budget for Transit City or a subway and by Spring 2012 there will be no money for repairs on the TTC and asked did Mr. Tasses find this disappointing. He did. Councillor Nunziata asked if he was aware that the money was in the budget to start construction of the community centre in 2011 and that negotiations are underway for the Kodak Lands. He was glad to hear it. [note: Councillors aren’t allowed to make statements in the consultations, just pose questions.]
12) Cvitan Brkic – spoke about youth poverty and unemployment and the need for job creation.
13) Anthony Fernando, former City of Toronto employee and Urban Fellows group member – spoke about his experience as a fellow/intern with the City. He said the program wasn’t delivering value for money and cited different problems with it and the need for change to make it a good internship program.
Councillor Lindsay Luby asked if the $1 million program should be cut. Mr. Fernando said that was a hard call but it wasn’t delivering value for money now. Councillor Holyday said he passed Mr. Fernando’s letter to the auditor and the issue will be investigated.
14) Maureen O’Reilly, President, Toronto Public Library Workers Union, Local 4948 – spoke on the unsustainable funding situation at Toronto’s library. This budget includes another cut of 17.5 full-time equivalent positions and cuts to collections reducing the number of materials available in the library. The 17.5 position cut comes on top of massive cuts at the time of amalgamation and constant cuts since. As well the library has the highest gapping level of all City services.
Councillor Doucette asked if Ms. O’Reilly thought the staffing was adequate to take care of children in the library. Ms. O’Reilly said definitely not and referred to an incident before the holidays where a library was evacuated and there were no staff in the child area. She said the area had a sign saying don’t leave your children unsupervised in this area, but that won’t cut it. Councillor Perks asked about the impact of the cut to collections. Ms. O’Reilly said it is not just books but all kinds of materials in various formats. Cuts to collections have been constant since amalgamation.
15) John Smith – spoke about waste at City Hall referring to two pieces of mail he received from the same department instead of just one and the photocopies in the letters that were unnecessary. He talked about unwanted garbage fee increases and the need to reduce spending, an issue that businesses have tackled.
Councillor Lee asked if Mr. Smith was aware that he could receive and pay for utility and electricity bills electronically. He was and he does.
16) Margaret Vandenbroucke , Advocacy and Communications, Multifaith Alliance to End Homelessness – spoke about concerns about the future of the Shelter, Support and Housing budget with two reserves being drained. She talked about the Capital Revolving Fund being used for Affordable Housing Office operating expenses instead of what it was intended for – capital costs for building affordable housing. She identified the need for provincial and federal funding and the advocacy work of MFATEH on that front. She identified housing priorities for the City: streets to homes, eviction prevention work, financial incentives for inclusive housing including condos, social housing redevelopment and the need for development charges to be directed to affordable housing.
Mayor Ford joined the consultation, and said he wants to hear from the public and gave his new number: 416-397-FORD (3673). Give him a call!
17) Preethy Sivatumar – spoke about the need to strengthen social infrastructure and create good jobs. She expressed concerns about outsourcing and the austerity mentality at City Hall. She called the property tax freeze irresponsible, referring to the effects of the Lastman tax freeze. She described the cuts as devastating to marginalized communities and a symbolic value in terms of the overall budget. She referred to bus route cuts and cuts to the Tenant Defence Fund as hurting marginalized communities.
Councillor Perks asked if the cuts to 48 bus routes, 1/3 of all bus routes, were a minor service cut? Ms. Sivatumar said they are a devastating cut.
17) Kevin Moore, Treasurer, Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations – described himself as a homeowner and a volunteer at FMTA who receives no money for his services to FMTA. FMTA helps 60,000 tenants annually. One million tenants pay property taxes, often at higher rates than homeowners like himself. He referred to the results of United Way’s Vertical Poverty report and the clear need to support tenants. He said that the median income at FMTA is $36,000, saying there’s no gravy here. Through their hotline, they respond to 10,000 calls a year, providing translation as needed. Their work has saved tenants $7 million in rent increases. Mr. Moore said he is not anti-landlord but knows that landlords are well-represented and tenants need to be too. FMTA provides this representation at a very low cost. He mention that the cut to the Tenant Defence Fund amounts to just 0.2% of the Pan Am Games cost-overrun.
Councillor Perks asked if Mr. Moore would be willing to pay a property tax increase of 0.005% to reverse the cut. Mr. Moore said it sounded like it would cost just pennies, and he had some change in his pocket that he could pay right now.
18) Steve Shallhorn, West Toronto Lawn Bowling Club – said his group gets a very small grant to help defer costs for the club which serves a largely seniors population. He talked about the merits of the club for health and wellbeing. He also spoke about his disappointment that the vehicle registration tax was cut because the City needs that money and now we are looking at service cuts.
19) Harry Armstrong, library patron – spoke against closure of the Urban Affairs Library. He questioned who would rent the space vacated and if left open would be a cost not a savings. He said the library had been established at Metro Hall as a resource for City Councillors and that it is a misconception that the collection is transferrable. He described the staff report with budget recommendations as incomplete and misleading. He said it needed to include comparisons with comparable libraries (some of which have lower usage than the Urban Affairs Library) and the lack of stats over time that show the growth of use at the library. He also mentioned that a significant homeless population uses the Urban Affairs Library.
20) John Maclennan – admonished the Mayor for using bottled water. The chair asked him to direct his comments to the chair. Mr. Maclennan described this budget as short-term pain for long-term gain. He said we should have consistent small property tax increases to avoid having to have a big one down the road. He talked about the services cut as a result of the tax freeze.
Councillor Holyday said he saw Mr. Maclennan taking pictures when union groups spoke and asked if he was a member of the union. Councillor Perks rose on a point of personal privilege stating that members of the public were being intimidated to provide their political and union affiliations. Councillor Del Grande said the deputant didn’t need to answer. Mr. Maclennan said he was not a member of the union (referring to early speakers from 416 and library workers). There was quite a bit of back and forth between Councillor Holyday and Mr. Maclennan. Councillor Del Grande intervened instructing both to stick to the question and answer format. Councillor Perks asked if property taxes should be raised so we don’t have increasing fees and cuts to recreation every year. Mr. Maclennan agreed. Councillor Nunziata asked what the increase should be. Mr. Maclennan suggested 1 or 2% each year.
21) Bianca Sanchez, Independent Civic and Social Professional – spoke about alternative transportation means such as car-sharing and employers picking up their workers with a company van.
22) Cydney M. White – said the problems we face regarding public service cuts and asset privatization are due to mistakes made in the 1980s when we stopped borrowing from the Bank of Canada.
23) Desmond Cole – spoke about the Finch LRT and Transit City. He has been spending his free time speaking to riders on the 36 Finch West bus which is used by 42,000 people every week. Most did not know about the plan with Metrolinx, that 14 million had been spent already on Transit City and that more is committed on contracts. He said the Finch LRT line will allow for the same number of lanes for cars so was not a war on the car.
24) Simon Chamberlain, Mount Dennis Community Association – Mount Dennis has the highest rate of poverty in the province except for Rainy River. His main message was don’t let the cuts hammer the poorest people. He spoke about the importance of the Eglinton LRT, the new community centre, renovations to the library which seem to be on hold, and the need for integrated planning around the library renovations. He expressed concerns about cuts to local bus routes that will leave people with less service and less safe having to walking longer distances after dark. He also spoke about neglected parks in the neighbourhood.
25) Kenneth Hale, lawyer, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario – spoke against the cut to the Tenant Defence Fund, a direct service to tenants. The cut represents a huge cut to tenant direct services. Mr. Hale recommended that the cuts be made in Shelter, Support and Housing with its 763.9 staff, not a small agency serving tenants. He quoted statistics from Vertical Poverty than shows the extensive repair problems that tenants face. He described the cut as bureaucratic game-playing.
Councillor Perks asked if it was a minor cut. Mr. Hale said it was a major service cut.
26) Ed Montagne, Equity Toronto – said that the funding decisions should be made through an equity lens to ensure that the marginalized are not made more marginalized. He spoke in support of community services and referred to the economic polarization in the city shown in Dr. Hulchanski’s three cities report.
27) Ron McAllister – is a lumber broker. He compared his business decision-making to the decisions made at City Hall referring to transit issues. He compared the Mayor’s transit plan to Transit City saying the return on investment is much greater for Transit City. He referred to the Pembina report showing the difference in costs and residents that would benefit from each plan. He said he hadn’t seen anything from the Mayor that would suggest his plan makes more sense.
28) Roger Brook – said the property tax freeze drains reserves and defers maintenance. He talked about how we have funding to work on Transit City but would get few subways down the road, if at all. He said there’s no good customer service without actual service, and that’s what’s on the table on transit. He concluded saying that the requirement to keep transit underground doesn’t make sense. It’s like expecting all cars to go underground.
29) John Kiru, Executive Director, Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas – BIAs levy funding from their business members to pay for improvements in neighbourhoods. The City pays 50% with matching funds from business. It is the best deal in town with respect to City programs. While the number of BIAs have increased dramatically 53 to 71 in last six years, the funding has been largely frozen.
Councillor Perks asked if Mr. Kiru was aware that the budget included a cut to education and training sessions for BIAs. He was not and worried about the effect. Councillor Nunziata asked where the money should come from for BIAs. Mr. Kiru suggested the billboard tax was one place. Councillor Nunziata responded that that made sense.
30) Resident (could not hear name) – said the City is bankrupt and spends beyond its means. He said he wants less government and more services. He named a long list of areas that should be a priority for the city.
31) Tamara Ferus – gave a moving deputation, describing herself as the new face of poverty. One year ago, she had a good job in a hospital with good wages. Her job was outsourced. Her EI is now exhausted and she’s receiving Ontario Works or welfare. She talked about being shocked by how little people are supposed to live on. She described her situation as the tip of the iceburg. She named three areas of the budget that should be well funded and not cut – libraries, community centres and community groups like St. Christopher House where she is a volunteer. She talked about how these programs had saved her as she fell into poverty over the last year.
32) Jack Brenigan – spoke about the lack of sustainable funding and how during Listening to Toronto forums the public discussed revenue tools to take the burden off the property tax. He named the vehicle registration tax, land transfer tax and alcohol sales tax in stores. He said because we are abandoning these alternative sources and freezing property taxes, we are now seeing user fee increases. He didn’t think the vehicle registration tax was too much for drivers, amounting to about one litre of gasoline per week.
33) Gerard Ardamas – talked about the problem of reducing costs by staff attrition, saying those retiring have made important contributions. Under attrition, those jobs won’t be replaced. He asked how that could leave us better off? He said Mayor Ford had said he was elected to build subways and promised not cuts. Now we are seeing cuts. He asked the Councillors if one promise was more important than the other. Councillors did not respond as per the format for these sessions. Mr. Ardamas said that their silence was deafening.
34) Salvina Hollingworth – said she did not have prepared notes and was speaking from the heart. She lives in Toronto Community Housing and praised them for what they do with so little money. She urged Councillors not to cut funding to Toronto Community Housing. She said the quality of life and services are so important to youth in TCHC, youth that they are losing to prisons and jails.
35) Soblyn Kerr – spoke on the importance of funding and taking action on adult literacy.
There were about 5 more speakers to go at 10 p.m. Apologies for any spelling mistakes in the names of deputants. Not everyone was on the printed list of speakers.
Report backs for the East York and Scarborough public deputations will be posted shortly. Generally speaking, the majority of deputants at these sessions spoke about protecting public services with many advocating for a modest property tax increase to pay for services.
Mayor Ford spoke to reporters after the East York consultation, saying that residents are calling his office on mass to support the property tax freeze. He made no reference to the opposite message he has heard through the public deputation process.
What’s next? Several Councillors are holding resident town halls and information sessions on the budget in their neighbourhoods. Check at www.socialplanningtoronto.org/budget_2011 for a full listing. Next meetings are on Saturday, January 22.
Budget Committee meets on Monday, January 24 and Tuesday, January 25 at City Hall, Committee Room 1 for the budget wrap-up. Meetings start at 9:30 a.m.
Didn’t get a chance to have your say at the budget public hearings? Call or email your Councillor and the Mayor! http://app.toronto.ca/im/council/councillors.jsp
Update – January 20, 2011
City budget watch – Budget Committee meeting on TTC, TPS, Public Deputations Day 1
After a long night of public deputations, the Budget Committee and guest Councillors met this morning for a review of the Toronto Zoo, Toronto Atmospheric Fund, Toronto Transit Commission and Toronto Police Service budgets. TTC and TPS were brought back to the committee today because analyst notes were not available last week for Councillor review due to changes in both budgets.
- On the Toronto Zoo file, managers will be bringing forward a review at the next Zoo board meeting on the feasibility of caring for elephants at the zoo. Hundreds of animal rights activists have called for the elephants to be moved to a more appropriate location and habitat, referring to elephants that have died at the zoo in recent years. The current budget includes $250,000 for an elephant enclosure which Councillor Carroll raised questions about. The enclosure may be purchased pending the outcome of the elephant review. Councillor Carroll spoke about the financial consequences related to the outcry about the health and safety of the elephants which will affect corporate donors to the zoo.
- Earlier this week, the Executive Committee passed a motion directing the City Manager to conduct a review of Toronto’s Atmospheric Fund, including the achievement of the fund’s original goals, operational processes and economic benefits of the fund. At the Budget Committee, Councillor Carroll spoke about the excellent work of the fund, saying it has provided a “pure cash benefit” from reducing energy and utility costs while improving the environment. She went on to note that the City had borrowed $3 million from the fund many years ago when Councillor Jakobek was the Budget Chief, and had then decided to forgive the debt and not repay the fund.
- Analyst notes for the TTC and TPS were made available this morning to Councillors. Staff from these agencies responded to questions of the Councillors. Councillor Perks suggested that the police budget was balanced by drawing against long-term reserves that would create pressure on the budget in future years. Staff agreed, referring to a $1.4 million of known pressures for 2012.
- Councillor Vaughan spoke about the federal jurisdictional work that Toronto Police are picking up that should be paid by the federal government. While a small secondment of workers are supported by the federal government, the issue is yet to be resolved. The TPS budget includes cost cutting from contracting out caretaking work at police services. Staff confirmed that all contracted staff have background checks before they gain access to police facilities.
- Councillor Milczyn asked about the impact of the hiring freeze on police in the TTC. Staff confirmed there has been no change in services or positions.
- Councillor Del Grande asked about the trends in sick leave among TPS. Staff confirmed it is increasing slightly, representing a growing pressure on the budget because sick leave has been unfunded for the past 3 or 4 years. They also noted that absenteeism has decreased significantly each year for the past 5 years. They noted that average sick days is 6.7 for officers and 9.2 for civilian staff, well below the allowable amount of 18 days.
- Councillor Vaughan attempted to request a briefing note for further details on police services but was informed that the financial services staff probably won’t have time to complete it by Monday’s Budget Committee meeting. Councillor Vaughan commented that “process trumps information in this new schedule”.
- The TTC budget still includes $8 million in unspecified reductions due to the reversal of the fare increase. Staff will have to come up with the cut before the Budget Committee has its final meeting on the budget on February 10. Bus route cuts are also on hold until the February 2 TTC meeting. Four public consultations on route cuts have been set up:
- Monday, January 24, 2011, 7:00pm to 9:00pm – Metro Hall, Room 308/309, 55 John Street at King Street, direct access from St Andrew Station.
- Tuesday, January 25, 2011, 7:00pm to 9:00pm – North York Central Library, Memorial Hall, 5120 Yonge Street, direct access from North York Centre Station.
- Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 7:00pm to 9:00pm – Scarborough Civic Centre, Rotunda, 150 Borough Drive, direct access from Scarborough Centre Station.
- Thursday, January 27, 2011, 7:00pm to 9:00pm – Elmbank Community Centre, lower level, 10 Rampart Road (south east corner of Finch Avenue and Martin Grove Road), access from 36 Finch West, 46 Martin Grove, and 191 Highway 27 Rocket bus routes.
- Pension funding is also a growing pressure for the TTC budget. A provincial report is expected that may direct the TTC to make a plan to ensure the plan is appropriately funded.
- Councillor Perks pointed to problems with substantial operating funding shortfalls for the TTC in future years. Staff said there are three ways to address it – through services (cuts), fares (increases) or subsidy (draw from subsidy) with the latter being the most preferable. Staff referred to how fare increases in the recession of the 1990s led to dramatic decreases in ridership. The TTC will face challenges to find the additional subsidy support in future years.
- Councillor Vaughan brought up the question of where the new streetcar yard will be located. Many people don’t want it at Ashbridges Bay and have suggested other locations – none of which were deemed appropriate by staff re space considerations, lack of tracks, etc. Staff are going to meet with Councillor McMahon to tour facilities.
- Councillor Lee asked about the complement of special constables and police working on the TTC. There are 100 special constables and 80 police.
- Councillor Del Grande concluded the meeting by giving brief reports on last night’s public consultations. He began by describing the East York session which included about 60 speakers saying that some were “groups with a vested interest.” Councillor Perks rose on a point of personal privilege saying that most were just ordinary citizens. Words were exchanged back and forth. Councillor Carroll requested a ruling on the point of personal privilege. Councillor Del Grande ruled it out of order stating that he hadn’t finished his sentence. He told Councillor Perks, “I don’t need you to reprimand me. You are a guest. You keep forgetting that.” Councillor Del Grande went on to say that there were groups with a vested interest in the budget and other citizens. He said the people speaking talked about the budget impact for them, that they said they were willing to pay more for services, including the vehicle registration tax, land transfer tax and more taxes generally to keep their services. He said the overall direction was they would rather pay more for services than have service cuts.
- Councillor Milczyn described the North York session which included 35-40 deputants (actually only 30 deputed but more were on the list). He said speakers deputed in favour of the arts, support services, settlement, daycare, priority neighbourhoods and transit. (He didn’t mention housing, but there were a number of us.) He also said that some deputants were clear that they voted for efficiency and fiscal responsibility and were more favourable on the budget (my count was 3 speakers fit this description). He also mentioned that one person said that the City could save money by eliminating floride in the water. Councillor Del Grande said there were complaints about the audio system at East York and asked staff to make sure that the systems are working, including for tonight’s sessions. Councillor Parker added that the Mayor attended a good portion of the North York consultation (and East York) and that groups speaking clearly identified their affiliations, that there was no question about who they spoke for. He said there was no problem with the sound system at North York and the public had a good hearing and it was orderly. Neither session included staff presentations because of the tight timelines. The North York session ended around 10 p.m. and the East York one around midnight. Councillor Di Giorgio said he was astounded that the Toronto Board of Trade described the City’s move to introduce a small business tax category, benefiting small businesses, as a “red herring” and that the Board’s interest was in competitiveness.
- Councillor McConnell invited all Councillors to attend the non-Budget Committee public budget session at City Hall in Council Chambers on Saturday, January 22. She noted that no downtown residents took part in the East York sessions, meaning that people were generally from the east side and East York rather than west of the Don Valley. Councillors McConnell, Vaughan and Wong-Tam are co-hosting their own session on Saturday.
- On my own point of personal privilege: On the topic of groups with a “vested interest in the budget” – many groups spoke about the community and economic benefit resulting from their services. Arts groups, for example, receive funding that is leveraged to bring in additional funds, that benefits the economy and job creation and delivers important services to communities across the City. Funding to arts affects us all. Groups like ours also spoke on funding issues that have no direct impact on our organization. Social Planning Toronto deputed on priority recreation centres, cuts to the Tenant Defence Fund, and moving shelter users to motels from shelters. Our deputation focused on the kind of city we want to create. And one more example, groups like Canadian Pensioners Concerned deputed not only on the interests of their members, but the generations to come because (as the Mayor said) we’re all in this together. In short, these groups have a vested interest in the city and its people.
Update – January 19, 2011
City budget watch – Day 1 of public consultations on the budget
Two evenings of public consultations on the City budget kicked off today with sessions at North York Civic Centre and East York Civic Centre. I attended the North York consultation and will have a report tomorrow on the East York session. Thirty people made deputations at the North York Civic Centre before one of the City’s Budget Subcommittees and several guest Councillors. The deputations focused overwhelmingly on appeals to reverse service cuts, the impact on communities from service cuts and the need for investment in vital City and community services. Three deputants called for fiscal restraint, cutting spending and no tax hikes (Toronto Board of Trade, Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Toronto Taxpayers Coalition).
Some memorable moments: Councillor Ford, who chaired the meeting, referred to Margaret Watson from Canadian Pensioners Concerned as Margaret Watson from Canadian Prisoners Concerned, drawing guffaws all around. He asked Margaret if she supported corporate sponsorship of recreation centres such as a Walmart recreation centre. Margaret commented on how Walmarts are shutting down mom and pop stores, and the public services should be run and operated by the public. In response to more questioning along this line, Margaret gestured to all of the Councillors remarking “We elected you. We didn’t elect Walmart.” Massive applause ensued.
The North York deputants:
1&2) Karen Tisch, Toronto Arts Council and Claire Hopkinson, Executive Director, Toronto Arts Council – Spoke on the importance of arts funding, its economic impact, and the need to make good on the City’s commitment of increasing arts funding to $25 per capita by 2013.
Councillor Parker asked for details on New York City’s arts support and its impacts. NYC makes the highest per capita investment in the arts in the States. Councillor Ford asked where the jobs created by arts are located – just downtown, Etobicoke, elsewhere. TAC presenters replied that the fastest growing area is within the community arts program which is mostly outside of the old City of Toronto. They also noted that the old City of Toronto government had supported arts and seeded new arts organization, and that it will take time to spread that through the city.
3) Mark Ucieklak spoke on behalf of a youth for youth sports organization (couldn’t hear the name). He spoke about the need for funding to build sports walls in every school and the importance of sports to the health and wellbeing of communities.
4) Geoff Kettel, North York Preservation Panel – Spoke on the understaffing in heritage preservation at the City so that buildings are not protected. There is a backlog of more than 100 properties that have been identified as potential heritage buildings. Resources are needed to investigate and make decisions about their status. There is only one staff to conduct the research needed to decide on designations. Also Mr. Kettel said he was unable to tell from the budget documents if heritage staff funding has been cut, flatlined or increased. Councillor Ford responded that $260,000 was being reallocated to heritage within the planning budget.
5) Christine Harris, Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, Scarborough Arts Council – Spoke on SACs work, including work with youth from inner suburbs. She spoke on the City’s commitment to increase arts funding to $25 per capita by 2013.
6) Aisha Farah, Scarborough Arts Council – Spoke on her experience as a young artist and how SAC and Urban Arts have provided her with opportunities to develop as an artist and be employed as an artist.
Councillor Carroll asked Aisha if she supported arts funding broadly rather than funding for one but not another. She agreed on the need for funding across agencies.
7) Laurie-Shawn Borzovoy, Urban Arts – Spoke on the impact of arts organizations across the city and including work in the Weston-Mount Dennis priority neighbourhood. He pointed out the extensive business experience such as business plan development that participants receive through Urban Arts programming.
8) Carol Wilding, Toronto Board of Trade - Spoke on the need for fiscal sustainability as their top priority at the City, commending Councillors for the property tax freeze, the “historical fiscal reset” on Council and the priority of “inclusive economic growth and job creation” that should be taken into account when deciding on cuts in 2012. She supported the hiring of an outside consultant to conduct a line by line review of the books. Several Councillors asked Ms. Wilding questions, giving her the most time to speak among all deputants.
Some questions: Councillor Parker asked Ms. Wilding her advice considering the deteriorating infrastructure and growth demands of the city. She referred him to the Board’s discussion papers. Councillor Perruzza pushed her to explain what she thought they would find from this line by line review, challenging the idea that great efficiencies would be discovered. Ms. Wilding responded that the City can’t spend what it doesn’t have. She did not seem to entertain any ways of increasing revenues, just cuts. Councillor Ford commented that he couldn’t agree more with her presentation, that the city has a spending problem not a revenue problem, and that he doesn’t believe in cuts, he believes in efficiencies.
9) Margaret Watson, Canadian Pensioners Concerned – spoke on the positive impact of provincial legislation that requires a certain level of support to long term care residents and cannot be cut, in opposition to the $100,000 cut to the Tenant Defence Fund and its impact on seniors and risk of increasing homelessness, opposition to the end of adult programming in priority centres and increase to recreation user fees, and possibly cuts to bus routes. She also spoke on CPC’s understanding of the role of taxes that we need to pay for the city we want and that they are fearful that with reduced services we will no longer be a caring community.
Councillor Carroll asked Margaret if she thought the City was on a slippery slope with recreation cuts. She responded that seniors are concerned about the impact on the young – their children and grandchildren. Councillor Perruzza agreed that the $100,000 Tenant Defence Fund was a piddly amount that was more symbolic than anything. He asked Margaret why she thought the Budget Committee was making this symbolic cut. Margaret responded she didn’t know why. She went on to say that CPC believes we need to be our brother’s keeper and this cut would take us away from being the city we want to be. Councillor Ford asked her if she supported corporate naming rights of recreation centres to drive down user fees. Margaret spoke about how Walmart was shutting down mom and pop stores, and shouldn’t be calling the shots in public centres, the public should. Gesturing to all of the City Councillors, she responded “We elected you. We didn’t elect Walmart.” Her final comment drew massive applause from participants.
10&11) Winston Tinglin, Director of Community Engagement, Social Planning Toronto and Mike Creek, Board Member, Social Planning Toronto – spoke on the value of the budget for setting the direction of the city, and that we should evaluate these decisions according to whether they take us closer to being a liveable, affordable and equitable city or further from this goal. They spoke against the end of free adult programming at priority centres and the decision to move 100 from shelters to motels stating that these are major policy shifts that should be part of a policy discussion, with the budget following from the policy discussion and not the other way around. They also spoke on the problems with the Welcome Policy which need serious investigation, and the possible inadequacies of the capped funds to provide recreation subsidies for low income people. They also spoke against the $100,000 cut to the Tenant Defence Fund as a fraction of a fraction of the overall budget but having a large impact on tenants.
Councillor Carroll said that a motion has been put forward to reverse the priority centre cut and ask Parks, Forestry and Recreation to cut the money from another area. She said that hardship would result elsewhere and would that be acceptable. Mike Creek responded that it may be better than what’s proposed now which is devastating.
12) John Cartwright, President, Toronto and York Region Labour Council - spoke about the budget in the context of working people. He noted that unlike the Toronto Board of Trade, the labour council doesn’t represent the corporations that created the fiscal crisis that working people are now paying for. He described the property tax freeze as irresponsible, and the draw on reserves this year to balance the budget along with no tax increase as setting the stage to justify major cuts in 2012. He spoke about the impact of Mel Lastman’s 3 year tax freeze that created a quarter of a billion dollar hole in the budget. He commented on the trajectory of budget decisions for cutting and outsourcing down the ride such as the outsourcing of recreation centres. He spoke about the austerity mindset reflected in this budget, and the small cuts this year reflect areas that will be targeted in the future. He spoke about the impact of the bus route cuts being considered that will affect shift workers, hotel workers, nursing home staff, and those workers at 24/7 workplaces. He spoke against priority centre cuts, the Tenant Defence Fund cut and a weakening environmental leadership reflected in this budget. He made the recommendation that there should be a special tax rate for businesses in the green economy that will support green jobs in Toronto.
Councillor Minnan-Wong asked whether John would recommend a tax increase and how much. He responded that the property tax freeze is inappropriate and the latest stats suggest inflation is at just over 2% which would be a reasonable property tax increase. Councillor Di Giorgio asked about incentives for green industries and the potential difficulty with dirty industries that aren’t wanted in the city. John responded that the labour movement has long championed health and safety in the workplace. He went on to talk about clean green industries where there are opportunities to create employment.
13) Susan Gapka and Judy Berger, Toronto Open Budget Initiative – commended Council for holding public consultations in the inner suburbs, the move to introduce the capital and operating budgets closer together and the Councillors who are organizing constituent town halls and budget information sessions. Susan went on to identify problems with the budget process – no downtown or day time budget sessions, need for more time to absorb the budget implications, need for input earlier in the budget process before all the real decisions have been made.
14) Nana Gulic, Community Development Worker, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto - spoke on issues facing their clients including poor housing and community program access. She said the MRAB program is a great program, but there is also a need for tenants to have a voice and have support in challenging rent increases. She spoke against the cut to the Tenant Defence Fund, recreation fee increases and the freeze in community grant funding, where more support is needed. She stated the cuts are cutting programs not cutting waste. She expressed concerns about the 2012 budget and the ability to sustain programs. She also spoke about the problem of how late community members and groups are included in the budget process, and the need for a more transparent process. Nana also spoke about her personal experience of frequent elevator breakdowns at a friend’s house and the problems of housing conditions.
Councillor Ford asked who the Councillor was and that they should act on that because the elevators should be working.
15) Maureen O’Reilly, President, TPLWU Local 4948 – spoke on behalf of librarian workers about the unsustainable funding situation in libraries with 17.5 full-time equivalent positions being eliminated and the highest gapping level among all City divisions. She also said that half of her members work part-time, and that part-time wages are inadequate to live in this city. She said the situation was at the breaking point.
Councillor Carroll asked about the impact of the Urban Affairs Library closure. She said people in the neighbourhood would lose their local library and a new one would not open for two years. She went on to say that University Avenue is a barrier for residents around Fort York to cross over with their children to bring to the City Hall library as an alternative.
The Mayor joined the consultation at this point saying to participants he was here to hear what they had to say and that these sessions are important. He went on to say, “You’re the boss, you’re the taxpayer, you pay our wages and salaries.”
16) Plamen Petkov, Director of Provincial Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business - said his members support the tax freeze and the elimination of the vehicle registration tax and now want to see the end of the land transfer tax. He said the City has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. He said that public service wages just be aligned with private sector wages (downward). He recommended downsizing by attrition and privatization of public services. He wants to see the City proceed in lowering the tax ratio between residential and business property taxes reduced to 2.5 by 2013. He favoured the consolidation of operating and capital budgets, recommended a budget lock-up that would allow people to ask questions of City staff to better understand the budget, said the additional budget consultation sessions were good, and wanted time slots for speakers.
Councillor Parker asked why a budget lock-up. Mr. Petkov said more people would participate in the budget process if they could understand it better which staff at a budget lock-up could provide. He said it was difficult to familiarize yourself with the budget through the website. Councillor Parker asked about the City seeking other forms of revenue that would be better than property taxes. Mr. Petkov responded that his members don’t approve any additional taxes. Asked about user fees, he said it was important to strike a balance between user fees and spending. Councillor Carroll asked if Mr. Petkov was aware that the City has established a small business class property tax to benefit small businesses, and was he aware that many of his members don’t know this and had they been communicated to about this benefit to small businesses. Mr. Petkov responded that because of increases in other areas, his members didn’t see the difference in their property taxes. Councillor Shiner asked if the CFIB would favour bus route cuts over increased taxes. He didn’t know but his members were never in favour of increasing taxes. Councillor Perruzza said we see you don’t like taxes so what would you cut? Mr. Petkov said he would be glad to discuss once all efficiencies had been made. Councillor Perruzza said “we don’t have any magic beans.” referring to the limits of efficiency finding.
17) Violet Toumbev, Board Member, Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association – spoke about her personal experience as a tenant having a landlord that had received 43 violations for housing that was not adequate for habitation. The tenants received incredible support from FMTA and support from the Tenant Defence Fund to challenge the landlord to meet their requirements including a 10% rent abatement and freeze to rents until problems were corrected. The tenants were successful at the Landlord Tenant Board thanks to FMTA. The landlord is appealing the decision and again FMTA is there for the tenants. She urged the Budget Committee to not cut the $100,000 from the Tenant Defence Fund and “make us more vulnerable than we already are”. She reminded Councillors that half of residents are tenants and they represent them too.
18) Erika Gates-Gasse, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants - spoke on housing, transit and recreation and their particular importance for immigrants and refugees. She expressed concerns about the federal government’s withdrawal from social housing funding that will leave a bigger and bigger hole each year. She spoke against the cut to the Tenant Defence Fund and its profound impact on immigrants as rent increases are growing. Referring to this major service cut, she said “This isn’t a gravy train. It is a grain of rice.” She spoke about the impact of increased recreation user fees, referring to the need for accessible programs and brought up the numbers of drowning deaths among young immigrants. She also raised concerns about the plan for alternative modes of service delivery from recreation centres. She also spoke about transit cuts for underserviced neighbourhoods. As well she stated OCASI’s support for funding for bed bugs as recommended by the Toronto Board of Health.
Councillor Carroll asked about other pressures on the immigrant serving sector due to federal cuts. Ms. Gates-Gasse responded that 10 agencies in one area of the city are receiving 100% federal cuts and 5 will close as a result. In turn, other agencies will face increased demand for service. The area is the St. Clair, Dufferin and Bloor area. Councillor Parker commented that the Council has been struggling for a long time to provide recreation without having others take advantage by flooding into areas and scooping all the program spots i.e. priority centres and did she have suggestions? Ms. Gates-Gasse said that the Welcome Policy is very difficult to navigate and many people don’t know about it and the requirements for access are an ongoing issue.
19) John Rizzo, Village at York Residents Association – spoke about the unique problems of near-campus universities, including unregulated rooming houses, absentee landlords, lack of property standard adherence, and problems of property crime and violent crime. Mr. Rizzo said the community doesn’t get any service from City Hall to deal with these problems.
Councillor Carroll said it sounds like you have a real problem that needs more resources, pointing out that the budget doesn’t include funding to increase services.
20) Jean-Francois Champagne, Executive Director, Canadian Security Association – spoke against the increase in fines for single dwelling homeowners for false fire alarms. He said this fine is a double whammy for single dwelling homeowners compared to buildings. He said the problem is not coming from single dwelling homeowners but they are paying a bigger price for the problem. Councillor Lindsay Luby and Parker are going to bring forward a motion at Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee to address this difference.
21) Monica Mitchell, Toronto Roller Derby League – spoke against the potential bus route cuts that will affect their access to Downsview Park and the thousands of players/fans that use the space. She gave specific recommendations about different ways to solve the problem. Councillors recommended that she go to the TTC consultations and speak with the TTC about the group’s recommendations.
22) Gerry Cooper – spoke about the lack of efficiencies that have been found at Toronto Water which is raising its water rates considerably. He recommended that floridation be eliminated and that it would save funds and is unneeded.
23) Sean O’Leary, Chief Executive Officer, Safetech Alarms Inc. – explained how the false alarm bylaw and increase fines are affecting customers in single dwelling homes and his industry. Small businesses and residents in single dwelling homes have had fire alarms (false alarms) activate where his company contacted fire to respond. These were alarms that were beyond the owners’ control but they were still charged. They then complained to Mr. O’Leary about the fine. He has since change his policy where he only calls fire if he receives confirmation from the homeowner. The impact of the fine and bylaw are putting individuals at risk because companies will be increasingly unwilling to contact fire as a response to alarms. He also said that when fire is notified 3 trucks are sent, when it could be just 1 and that if fire is contacted that it is a false alarm they continue to respond to the call regardless.
24) John Davies recommended that the City save money by capping salaries at $200,000. He also said the City was not asked and did not provide consent to be the venue for the G20 which was a great cost to the City and they should be asked. He wants to see funding go to elevators in the TTC, RGI housing, road work and other things that would reduce unemployment.
Councillor Ford said I like you because you have ideas (about what to cut), not just complaining about everything.`
25) Vanessa Hunt, Vice President Campus, York Federation of Students – spoke in favour of the TTC fare freeze and against route cuts.
26) Michael Kerr, Coorindator, Colour of Poverty-Colour of Change - spoke on the themes of penny-wise pound-foolish and you can pay now or pay later. He spoke about the racialized nature of poverty and inequality and provided disturbing statistics including one showing Aboriginal and racialized poverty had increased by 361% since 1980 and decreased 28% for residents who are white or of European descent. He referred to several studies, but was cut off by Mayor Ford who was chairing. While Councillor Ford allowed some deputants up to 6 minutes, the Mayor cut Michael`s deputation off at 5 minutes.
27) Matthew McGuire, President, Toronto Taxpayers Coalition – spoke about how to privatize waste collection, suggesting that three companies be contracted to collect in three parts of the City and leave one area for the public service. He said this would cut down on union demands because of competition.
Councillor Carroll asked if he wanted her to explore privatization or implement. He responded he wanted the best type of privatization to be explored and then implemented.
28) Kevin Nadar – spoke about eliminating the TTC garage train by changing the collection process to save the TTC money
29) Mr. Hutchison – spoke about the quality of life in the city, raising concerns about tax cuts and asking questions about who benefits -the top 1% of earners or the middle or low income. He spoke against transit cuts, and expressed concerns for community programs like soup kitchens and shelters. He said the bulk of tax cuts benefit the 1% top income group. His other concern was about the sale of public housing and question how we will provide for homeless people and whether we will see more crime with economic desperation.
30) Jeff Pancer - said he loves sports but hopes the Council will cancel the Pan Am Games because we can`t afford it. He said we should only spend on essentials.
Stay tuned for more public hearing updates.
Update – January 18, 2011
Join the conversation with City Councillors! Upcoming Councillor town halls and budget information sessions:
- Ward 29 and 31 Community Town Hall on the City Budget – Councillors Fragedakis and Davis – January 19, 4-6 p.m. at East York Civic Centre, Meeting Room A, 850 Coxwell Avenue at Mortimer. This town hall takes place just prior to the Budget Committee public hearing at East York Civic Centre in Council Chambers
- Ward 32 Coffee Talks – 3 opportunities to meet on January 22, 1 on January 23 – Councillor McMahon – January 22, 9-11 a.m. at Red Rocket Café, 1402 Queen Street East OR 12-2 p.m. at Juice and Java, 2102 Queen Street East OR 3-5 p.m. at The Grinder, 126 Main Street OR January 23, 10 a.m. – noon at Caketown, 2039 Danforth at Woodbine.
- Wards 20, 27 and 28 Budget Information Session – Councillors Vaughan, Wong-Tam and McConnell – January 22, 1-3 p.m. at City Hall in Council Chambers, 100 Queen Street West.
- Ward 19 Budget Town Hall – Councillor Layton – January 27, 7 p.m. at St. Christopher House, 248 Ossington Avenue with former budget chief Councillor Carroll and City staff available for budget analysis and questions.
- Ward 22 Community Town Hall Meeting for Midtown Residents on the City Budget – Councillor Matlow – February 17, 7-9 p.m. at North Toronto Memorial Community Centre, 200 Eglinton Avenue West
Update – January 14, 2011
The Budget Committee concluded their budget review with City Councillors today – almost. Because analyst notes were not available for the Toronto Police Service (and by the look of the website, analyst notes also appear to be missing for the Toronto Transit Commission as well) due to recent changes in these budgets, an additional Budget Committee has been scheduled for Thursday, January 20 at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall in Committee Room 1.
Today’s Budget Committee meeting covered a number of agencies including Toronto Police Service and Toronto Transit Commission. With regard to police services, TPS brought their requested increase down by delaying recruitment of new officers, cutting premium pay and reducing contribution to reserves.
Councillor McConnell referred to a Federation of Canadian Municipalities study that found that up to 10% of police budgets in Canada are covering core policing responsibilities outside of the municipal jurisdiction, and which should be paid for by the federal government. These services include marine services, major drug crimes, terrorism-related and border security. The federal government should be footing the bill and they are not. The City needs to pursue this as the funds amount to an estimated $90-$100 million.
Councillor Vaughan said that the delay in recruiting new officers may actually cost the City more if TPS needs to provide retainment pay to officers that want to retire but are still needed, and these officers will have the highest salaries. He noted also that cuts to proactive policing activities are not well-thought out. It’s all about meeting a particular spending target, and not thinking about how a spending cut in one envelope may have unintended consequences that cost us more in the end. In particular, he referred to the connection between cuts to proactive policing and free recreation programs – as both proactive policing and community programs are important components to reducing crime. He also said that steps should be taken to recoup expenses from the entertainment district where as many as 1 in 6 police resources are allocated. Through licensing of nightclubs, it would bring in revenues to address policing problems in the entertainment district and reduce policing problems in the neighbourhood.
Councillor Ford said police services are the #1 most important service in this city, and if any service should be increased it is police services. He went on to contrast this with all of the “political grandstanding” for “special interest groups” that he has heard this week. This comment elicited quite a response from several councillors. Councillor McConnell rose on a point of personal privilege, stating that Councillors need to have respect for one another, that Councillors like herself are asking important questions that need to be asked, they are doing their jobs not grandstanding. Councillor Ford did not explain what he meant by special interest groups [tenants with bed bugs? recreation program users? tenants whose landlords won't reduce their rents as required by the City? library users at the Urban Affairs Library? homeless people in shelters?]. Several councillors commented on the lack of analyst notes available for the TPS budget. These notes are prepared by Financial Services staff and provide an independent assessment and detailed account of each budget. Staff are hopeful that the analyst notes can be provided by Monday. Councillor Del Grande concluded the discussion of the TPS budget requesting a report that would quantify the number of police officers and civilian staff that are required by police services. He noted that there is no comprehensive research documenting the needs.
On the TTC front, $8 million of the costs associated with withdrawing the recommendation for a fare hike is unallocated. The TTC has to figure out where the funds will come from and report back to the Budget Committee. Again analyst notes were not available because of recent changes to the TTC budget. Councillor Mihevc spoke out against cuts to bus routes [a decision that is currently on hold until the February 2 TTC meeting]. He commented that the extended bus route policy was just implemented two years ago and the overall plan has led to increased ridership which would be hurt by bus route cuts. He also expressed concerns about overcrowding of existing routes being possibly adopted as a solution to the hole in the budget. He said the first choice should be to use subsidy funds to cover the cost. If that is not possible, he said a small fare increase would be better than cutting services, and that TTC user surveys find that people would rather pay a fare increase than have service cuts.
The Budget Committee meets again on Thursday, January 20 at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall in Committee Room 1. In other news, spots for public hearings are quickly filling up. Book your space today for the January 19 and 20 deputations! Details are below under December 16 updates. We also remind you that Social Planning Toronto is hosting a member forum on the 2011 operating budget on Monday, January 17 at the 519 Church Street Community Centre from 3-5 p.m. Everyone is welcome. We’re pleased to announce that Councillor Shelley Carroll will be joining us, along with an impressive roster of speakers from the labour and community sectors. Check our home page at www.socialplanningtoronto.org for details and to register.
Update – January 13, 2011
Today’s Budget Committee meeting covered internal services such as Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of the Treasurer etc. As well, two agency budgets were presented – Toronto Public Health and Toronto Public Library. I attended the presentations for the Lobbyist Registrar, Office of the Ombudsman, Toronto Public Health and Toronto Public Library.
- The Mayor plans to hire an outside consultant to conduct a thorough review of the City’s finances and make recommendations for cutting costs in the 2012 budget. Councillor Vaughan suggested that this is the role of the Budget Committee that is being contracted out, and the Mayor doesn’t think the Budget Committee is up to the job. He raised serious concerns about legal and ethical issues related to this move. He remarked that making full details of the City’s books available to outside consultants without proper controls in place will set the stage for corruption as the consultants will have inside information that would be advantageous in the bidding for City contracts. He warned that lawsuits would result due to an unfair tendering procurement process, making references to the Bellamy Inquiry into the MFP computer leasing scandal of the late 1990s.
- Fiona Creen, the Toronto Ombudsman, did not mince words when it came to the impact of the 5% cut to the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office was established just 20 months ago to respond to constituent complaints about the City of Toronto and the public service. (which would seem to be central to the Mayor’s commitment to “customer service”) As well as addressing individual complaints, the Office is also tasked with labour-intensive systemic reviews to address widespread problems within the City. The Ombudsman asked for funding for an additional two position, and as a backfall position, that the 5% funding cut be returned. She explained that a 5% cut to a new and small office (just 10 staff) has quite a different impact than reductions from more established departments. She stated that without the additional positions and if the 5% cut was maintained it would constitute a “major” service cut. [The Mayor promised no major service cuts.] She explained that currently the Office is not resourced to fulfill its mandate and that in particular, marginalized communities, and residents in the inner suburbs in particular are not having their needs met by the Ombudsman, referring to these residents as second class citizens due to the underfunding of the Office. She made comparisons with comparable Ombudsman Offices in Montreal, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, showing Toronto’s funding for Ombudsman services rock bottom on a per capita basis. She commented that the Office currently lacks resources to respond to all complaints.
- Councillor Parker of the Budget Committee made remarks about how the budget requests of the Office of the Ombudsman are qualitatively different than those of other departments because the Office’s resources are insufficient to deliver on its mandate compared to other departments that are delivering on their mandate but could do more or less depending on funding.
- Councillors Fletcher, McConnell, Carroll, Augimeri spoke in support of the request for increased staffing.
- Councillor Ford spoke about the need for City Council to take action when Accountability Offices deliver “scathing reports” about problems identified through investigations.
- The Toronto Public Health board has requested an additional $500,000 to fund measures to respond to the bed bug outbreak in Toronto. The next day the Province announced a $5 million strategy to address bed bugs. It is unknown how much Toronto will receive, but TPH officials are hopeful that it will be more than $1 million and may approach $2 million.
- Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, reported on challenges in public health including rising bed bug infestations, rising number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases, the health impact of poverty, preventable chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes, and long waiting lists for senior dental care among other issues. TPH has benefited from the increased cost-sharing by the Province from 50-50 in 2004 to 75-25 today.
- Councillors asked no questions and made no statements in response to the TPH budget presentation.
- Jane Pyper, Chief Librarian, presented the staff recommended budget for the Toronto Public Library. The staff recommendations were not all endorsed by the Toronto Public Library board. For example, the staff recommended budget recommend shutting the Urban Affairs Library and moving this collection to the Toronto Reference Library, and cutting $400,000 from the budget to purchase new collections. The TPL board voted against these recommendations.
- The $400,000 cut amounts to a reduction of 23,500 new collections items. The Chief Librarian commented that resident satisfaction is linked to the availability of new materials and may be negatively affected by this cut.
- Residents use the Urban Affairs Library to pick up materials ordered from other branches, for study space and to use computer terminals in addition to the urban affairs collection. In 2009, 45,000 holds/pick-ups were made at the Urban Affairs Library. If the library closes, the next closest branch is 1.1 km from Metro Hall at City Hall. A Fort York Library is slated to open in 2014 which will serve this growing community.
- Councillors Doucette and Davis spoke out against the cuts to libraries. Councillor Doucette asked if the Urban Affairs Library could be kept open until the Fort York Library opens in 2014. Councillor Parker asked if a kiosk could be set up at Metro Hall so that residents could continue to pick up materials even if the urban affairs collection was moved.
- Councillor Davis commented that the TPL has had considerable funding cuts since amalgamation. She remarked that several departments have recommended budget increases and named a number of them including the Police, but TPL has delivered a cut. She expressed concerns about the impact of this cut. In response to Councillor Davis’ remarks, Councillor Ford said he was “appalled about the comparison between the library and the police” and that “with all due to respect to the libraries, you don’t put on a uniform and put your life on the line like police do.” On a point of personal privilege, Councillor Davis responded that she was not making a “value judgment” about police or libraries, that she values the police and resents the fact that “library staff have just been devalued.”
- A request was made for a briefing note to explore options to keep the Urban Affairs Library open and safeguard collections funding with no cuts.
- Councillor Del Grande, the Budget Chief, remarked about the lack of recommendations from Councillors about where money should come from to pay for services where cuts have been recommended. He said the budget is not easy, but he “still believes in Santa Claus”. This follows Councillor Del Grande’s earlier comments about wishing he was a “fairy” that could “sprinkle pixie dust” as a remedy to the City’s financial woes.
Councillor Layton’s Ward 19 Budget Town Hall
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: St. Christopher House, 248 Ossington Avenue
Former budget chief Councillor Carroll and City budget staff will be on hand to assist in the analysis of the budget and answering questions.
Councillor McMahon Coffee Talks on the Budget – Ward 32
January 22 from 9-11 a.m. at Red Rocket Cafe, 1402 Queen Street East and 12-2 p.m. at Juice and Java, 2102 Queen Street East
Wards 20, 27 & 28 Budget Information Session
Councillors Wong-Tam, Vaughan and McConnell are co-organizing a budget information session for their constituents in Wards 20, 27 and 28 on Saturday, January 22 from 1-3 p.m. at City Hall in Council Chambers!
Downtown Budget Information Session (Wards 20, 27 & 28)
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Time: 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Location: City Hall, Council Chambers – 100 Queen Street West
Also read Councillor Wong-Tam’s newsletter for details about the 2011 budget and Ward 27: http://www.scribd.com/doc/46813080/January-2011-Newsletter
On a budget-related note:
Public Meeting on Defending Transit City – tonight, Thursday, January 13 at 7pm at Wychwood Barns. Barn #2, 601 Christie Street. All are welcomed! www.ttcriders.ca
Update – January 12, 2011
Today’s Budget Committee meeting covered Citizen Centred Services B, the so-called hard services such as fire services, transportation services and the like. I attended the Municipal Licensing and Standards budget review which includes the Multi-Residential Apartment Buildings Audit Program (MRAB). MRAB focuses on assessment and enforcement of property standards in Toronto apartments. MRAB staff conduct inspections of apartment buildings, issue orders to landlords to repair deficient buildings and enforce orders when landlords fail to comply. MRAB has ramped up from 14 proactive apartment building inspections in 2008 to 200 in 2010. Another 200 proactive inspections are expected in 2011. In 2010, staff conducted an assessment of 3,500 of Toronto’s 4,000 apartment buildings, identifying 50 buildings deemed critical and requiring immediate inspection and a couple of hundred more that require inspection within the next year. MLS increased the staffing complement for MRAB by two positions to a total of 17 last year. The 2011 budget safeguards all positions for MRAB. Responding to Councillor questions, MLS division head Jim Hart remarked that it would take 17 years to inspect all 3,500 buildings included in the assessment. Using the assessment, the MRAB program will focus on the most critical properties first. In the past, buildings were identified by suggestions from Councillors, tenants groups and word of mouth.
Councillors Fletcher and Davis pointed out that the success of the MRAB program has been due in large part to the City’s connection with tenant groups such as the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association. Both commented on the importance of supporting tenant organizations, and the serious misstep that is being recommended in the budget to cut $100,000 from the Tenant Defence Fund including $75,000 from FMTA for tenant support services.
On another note, Councillor De Baeremaeker gave an impassioned speech about the impact of cuts to the City’s animal shelters and animal services, the detrimental effects for dogs and cats in need, and safety concerns for Toronto communities. MLS includes animal services where 3.7 positions will be cut under the 2011 budget.
The TTC met today and are now recommending no fare increase and a postponement of the decision to cut back on 48 bus routes until its February 2 meeting. Staff have been instructed to investigate alternatives to bus route cutbacks.
Have you registered to depute at the January 19 and 20 public hearings on the City budget? Don’t forget to save your spot! Check the December 21 update below for all of the details. Planning on attending SPT’s member forum on the City’s 2011 operating budget on Monday, January 17? Sign up at www.socialplanningtoronto.org
Update – January 11, 2011
In a marathon 14-hour session, the Budget Committee completed its first day of deliberations on the 2011 City budget. Today’s review included staff presentations on Citizen Centred Services A, followed by questions, statements and motions by Councillors. Budget areas covered included Affordable Housing Office, Children’s Services, Court Services, Emergency Medical Services, Long-Term Care Homes and Services, Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Economic Development and Culture, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, Social Development, Finance and Administration, Toronto Employment and Social Services, 311 Toronto and Community Partnership and Investment Program.
- Speaking in general terms, I was struck by the extent to which reserve funds are being depleted to balance the budget. While this provides a way forward for 2011, it suggests big problems down the road in future budgets. As well, lack of provincial and federal funding was a consistent theme impacting City finances.
- The Affordable Housing Office reduced its net budget by 5.1% over 2010 by replacing two senior positions with junior positions and reducing the staff complement by three positions (the latter being temporary IT positions that were no longer required following completion of an IT project).
- Councillor Vaughan questioned whether enough resources were in place to ensure that the AHO would be able to negotiate arrangements with developers to increase affordable housing stock through inclusionary housing policy. He said that the Province is expected to pass enabling legislation to allow municipalities to introduce inclusionary housing policy that will facilitate the development of more affordable housing. Councillor Vaughan raised the idea of an Affordable Housing Secretariat that could maximize opportunities from inclusionary housing policy and the development of workforce housing.
- Sean Gadon, AHO manager, mentioned that the federal government is renewing the Affordable Housing Program for three more years to 2014. He is awaiting details on this program, as well as, a budget announcement related from the Province related to its long-term affordable housing strategy.
- In 2011, the City expects to complete a record 2,000 new units of affordable housing. As well, 400 affordable homes are planned for the Pan Am Village. Note: The City defines affordability as 100% of market rent. However some of the new units may include deeper subsidies. The City’s targets for new affordable housing are set at 1,200 per year, measured by Council approvals rather than housing completions.
- AHO also provided 800 housing improvement loans in 2010 to help keep seniors in their homes and modify housing to address the needs of residents with disabilities.
- Councillors also discussed the need to find ways to replenish the Revolving Capital Fund, a fund that AHO uses to support affordable housing development, provide housing improvement loans and help the City meet its affordable housing cost-sharing commitments with senior orders of government.
- Children’s Services - The child care expansion reserve fund has been used for years to fill the gap in child care funding from inadequate provincial and federal funding. This fund will be depleted by the end of 2012, leaving an anticipated $1 million shortfall. Without additional funding, 3,400 child care subsidies would be cut, with cuts through attrition starting as early as August 2012.
- 18,000 children are currently on the waiting list for child care in Toronto. Among OECD countries, Canada is dead last on child care access.
- Provincial child care funding is based on 1995 levels, without any adjustments for inflation. Lack of indexing to inflation has meant that the provincial government’s base contribution is eroding yearly. Meanwhile the federal government makes no contribution to child care since cancelling its program.
- The child care system is also facing significant financial pressures from the provincial move to introduce full day learning for 4-5 year olds, taking them out of the child care system. While a positive move, this presents financial challenges because it takes funding out of the child care system that cross-subsidizes child care for children 0-3. Infant care is more costly than care for children 4-5 because of greater staff requirements for younger children. As well, child care centres will need to make physical modifications to their centres to accommodate younger children consistent with provincial regulations.
- Both child care for children 0-3 and day long learning for 4-5 year olds are underfunded. The City has been picking up the slack to maintain 24,000 child care spaces. Moving forward with the expiration of child care reserve funds puts the system in jeopardy.
- The new program for 4-5 year olds while supported by the child care sector, does not include funding for before and after school care or full year care. A comprehensive full day learning program for 4-5 year olds was recommended in the Pascal report but not funded by the Province.
- Emergency Medical Services seeks to respond to all emergency calls in under 9 minutes, 90% of the time. In 1997, the service was close to this benchmark at 86% but today only 62% of calls are responded to within the 9 minute timeline. EMS has experienced an increase of 21% in emergency calls in recent years but no new positions since 2002.
- EMS managers raised real concerns about the potential impact on residents related to the decline in response time. They said the decline was predictable because of delays in offloading patients to hospitals which tie up ambulances and EMS workers at hospitals (requiring more funding from Provincial government for nurses to admit patients), and because of the shortage of EMS workers (requiring more City funding).
- They recommend funding for an additional 30 staff and 1 supervisor and say that 70-80 staff would be needed to fully tackle the problem. The Province has provided funding in 2008-2010 to address the hospital offload problem, but have not yet made a decision about 2011 funding.
- EMS managers cite the growing aging population and multicultural/multilingual population as reasons for the increase in calls and resources needed to respond.
- Several Councillors responded with concern with the delay in response times and requested for briefing notes for more detail on the issue.
- Parks, Forestry and Recreation managers are recommending that adults be charged fees for recreation programs in the City’s 21 Priority Centres. These recreation centres were deemed Priority Centres during amalgamation because more than 1/3 of the local community lived in poverty. At present, all programs are free in Priority Centres and available to any resident in the City. The Division recommendation to end free programming for adults in Priority Centres would raise an estimated $200,000 in revenues.
- If this recommendation is accepted, adults in Priority Centres with low income would need to apply for the Welcome Policy for a subsidy to pay for their program. The Welcome Policy funding was capped last year at just over $8 million. In2011, staff are recommending a small increase to the Welcome Policy fund. Welcome Policy funding is allocated by quarter and available on a first come, first serve basis. PFR manager anticipates that the funding will be exhausted in 2011, meaning low income residents applying for a subsidy after funds are exhausted would be left to pay full fees. It is not clear if there would be sufficient funds to deal with the uptake from eliminating free programming for adults in the Priority Centres.
- Several Councillors questioned and spoke out about ending free programming for adults in these centres. Arguments included the impact on low income communities, destroying programs that work and bring mixed income communities and serve low income communities, and undermining health and community cohesion objectives. Councillors linked shootings in communities with the need for accessible community and recreation programs, which will be lost under this recommendation. No details were available for how adult, senior and youth would be defined.
- Councillors talked about how this change constitutes a major policy shift that is being made through the budget without having had the policy debate with Council or community. Councillor McConnell questioned whether the revenue anticipated would even be a net gain for the City once administrative costs for administering the Welcome Policy and subsidy funding are factored in. Councillors requested several briefing notes with further details on this policy recommendation.
- The budget also includes a 3% user fee increase for recreation programs, a delay in implementing the Forestry Plan and no changes in the schedule for summer ferry service or outdoor pools. Staff talked about the desire of community to have pools and ferry service open earlier in the year and extending later into September because of warmer weather, but funding is not available to do this.
- The Shelter, Support and Housing Division is recommending an alternate service delivery model for some “self-sufficient” single adult shelter users such as refugee claimants. This plan would have under 100 people located in motels or furnished rooms rather than shelters. Currently, motels are used to provide shelter to families when the family shelter system is full. Staff said that people staying in motels or furnished rooms would receive the personal needs allowance as shelter users receive, and an allowance for meals that shelter users do not receive.
- This budget also includes cuts of $100,000 to the Tenant Defence Fund including $75,000 to the agency that provides tenant support services, and $25,000 from the fund itself, and a reduction in nearly 35,000 bed nights in family shelters. Staff suggested that the tenant support services could be delivered more efficiently and that the funds were not needed for the Tenant Defence Fund, and that the bed night cut was in line with actual experience related to refugee policy change leading to less demand for family shelters.
- Councillors raised concerns about both of these measures. Councillors Davis said that the Tenant Defence Fund and tenant support is greatly needed as landlords are challenging rent reductions in large numbers and tenants are also struggling with electricity sub-metering. She also spoke about the desperate housing crisis and the federal government’s withdrawal from social housing funding.
- Community grants under the Community Partnership and Investment Program are flatlined. These grants include core funding and project funding for community services and arts organizations.
- The Culture Plan includes a plan to increase arts and culture funding to $25 per capita by 2013, but the current budget includes no increase to realize this goal.
- The Toronto Public Health budget which comes up for review on Thursday late afternoon. TPH plans to request additional funds for student nutrition programs consistent with the student nutrition plan. Councillor Ford remarked that the Mayor would never cut student nutrition programs as it is close to the Mayor’s heart and that if anything deserved increased funding it was student nutrition. Councillor Mihevc, who was championing the student nutrition program, said he would follow up on the student nutrition with Councillor Ford and the Mayor.
- Meanwhile, the TTC is now recommending no fare increases as were included in its budget earlier in the week.
- Check the City’s website for budget presentations and analyst notes at www.toronto.ca/budget2011
Update – January 10, 2011
The Budget Committee released the 2011 operating, capital, Toronto water and solid waste management budgets today. Find details on all of these budgets at www.toronto.ca/budget2011/ Check the analyst notes for detailed breakdowns of departmental and agency, board and commission budgets.
Read analysis on housing and homelessness issues in the City budget from Michael Shapcott at the Wellesley Institute: www.wellesleyinstitute.com/blog/affordable-housing-blog/toronto-budget-2011-tightens-fiscal-screws-on-housing-homelessness-even-as-waiting-lists-grows/
Today’s staff presentations provide broad overviews of the City’s four budgets. Detailed presentations by department, agency, board and commission will follow at Budget Committee throughout the week. Schedule details are listed below.
- The operating budget was balanced using $346 million in one-time surplus funds from 2009 ($78 m) and 2010 ($268 m), leaving no surplus dollars moving forward. The remainder of items used to balance the books include upload of Ontario Works cost by Province ($63 m), unanticipated revenues from user fees and other revenues ($72 m), economic growth ($123 m), assessment growth ($45 m), and “line by line review, service efficiencies and minor service level changes” aka cuts ($57 m).
- Significant change to recreation programs that hasn’t made the news yet – the introduction of user fees for adult recreation programs in priority centres ($200,000). Currently, recreation centres deemed ‘priority centres’ provide all recreation programs for free. No details as to how many people would be affected by this major policy shift. People with low incomes could apply for a subsidy through the Welcome Policy as is the practice in non-priority centres. An increase of $645,000 for Welcome Policy subsidy funding is proposed to address uptake and inflationary increases, bringing the total to $8.689 million. Unclear whether this increase to the Welcome Policy would be sufficient to address the increase in subsidy uptake from adult users at priority centres. Adults with incomes above the Low Income Cutoff would pay full fees under the proposed plan.
- Cuts to the tenant defence fund ($100,000). ”The Tenant Defence Fund provides grants to tenant organizations to help protect the City’s affordable rental housing supply and helps tenants maintain their accommodation in rental properties.” (cut = $75,000 to the agency that provides support to tenants and $25,000 to the grant fund).
- Despite the Toronto Public Library board vote against closure of the Urban Affairs Library, the staff-recommended budget includes $100,000 savings from closing the Urban Affairs Library and moving the collection to the Toronto Reference Library. Councillors mentioned that 50,000 people pick up materials at the Urban Affairs Library. Closure of this library will leave them with no alternative library in the area until 2014 when a new library is slated to open on Bathurst Street. Some Councillors questioned why the decision to close the Urban Affairs Library could not be delayed until the other library opens.
- $225,000 net savings estimated from “alternate models of shelter service” delivery – “An alternative shelter model will be used for single clients who are reasonably self sufficient (such as refugee claimants). Clients who require minimal case management and do not require 24 hour supports will be accommodated using motel and furnished apartments as a means to provide less costly service, and estimated savings of $0.225 million net.”
- User fee increases include ttc fare increase (10 cent increase on tokens, $5 more for monthly metropass), 10.8% residential water rate increase (16 cents per household per day on average), solid waste fee increase of 3.6% (less than $1 per household per month on average).
- The budget includes no property tax increase and cancellation of the $60 personal vehicle registration tax. The latter represents a loss of $64 million to the City in lost revenues.
- Cuts to several late night bus routes – see announcement for full list: www3.ttc.ca/News/2011/January/0110_Fare_Increase.jsp
- The Community Partnership and Investment Program (community grants) budget is up 1%, reflecting the inclusion of certain cultural grants that were not included in the past. There was no mention of funding changes to community grants. Analyst notes for CPIP are not online yet.
Update – January 7, 2011
The Budget Committee meets January 10-14 to review the following capital and operating budgets:
Monday, January 10 at 9:30 a.m. in Council Chambers: Budget Launch – Morning (9:30-12:30) – 2011 Operating and Capital Budgets. Afternoon (1:30-6:00) – Toronto Water, Solid Waste Management Services.
Tuesday, January 11 at 9:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1: Citizen Centred Services A – Affordable Housing Office, Children’s Services, Court Services, EMS, Long-Term Care Homes and Services, Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Economic Development and Culture, Shelter, Support and Housing, Social Development, Finance and Administration, Toronto Employment and Social Services, 311 Toronto, Community Partnerships and Investment Program
Wednesday, January 12 at 9:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1: Citizen Centred Services B – Morning (9:30-12:30) – City Planning, Municipal Licensing and Standards, Policy, Planning, Finance and Administration, Toronto Environment Office, Waterfront Secretariat, Toronto Building, Technical Services. Afternoon (1:30-6:00) – Fire Services, Transportation Services, City Clerk’s Office, Toronto & Region Conservation Authority, Exhibition Place, Heritage Toronto, Theatres
Thursday, January 13 at 9:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1: Internal Services and Other City Programs – Morning (9:30-12:30) – Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of the Treasurer, Facilities Management and Real Estate, Fleet Services. Afternoon (1:30-6:00) – Information & Technology, City Manager’s Office, Legal Services, Accountability Offices, Toronto Public Health, Toronto Public Library
Friday, January 14 at 9:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1: Agencies – Morning (9:30-12:30) – Association of Community Centres, Arena Boards of Management, Yonge-Dundas Square, Toronto Parking Authority, Toronto Police Service, Toronto Police Services Board. Afternoon (1:30-6:00) – Toronto Zoo, Toronto Atmospheric Fund, Toronto Transit Commission
Councillor Ana Bailao, Ward 18, is holding a community meeting on the 2011 City of Toronto Budget!
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Wallace Emerson Community Centre
1260 Dufferin Street
It is her intention to use this meeting as an opportunity for local residents to share their thoughts on the city budget, including what local services and programs need to be maintained and/or improved.
For more information: 416-392-7012 or email@example.com
Update – December 21, 2010
Have your say on the 2011 City Budget! Register now for the January 19 and 20 public deputation sessions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-392-1032 or 416-397-7768 to reserve a spot. Given the short time available for public deputations, we recommend that you book your spot as soon as possible. Confirm the date and location with the City clerk.
Details are now posted at http://www.toronto.ca/involved/statutorynotices/archive2010/dec/sn_bu_011911_1.htm
Budget Sub-Committee for Scarborough and North York Consultation:
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
North York Civic Centre
5100 Yonge Street
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Scarborough Civic Centre
150 Borough Drive
Budget Sub-Committee for Etobicoke York, and Toronto and East York Consultation:
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
East York Civic Centre
850 Coxwell Avenue
Thursday, January 20, 2011
York Civic Centre
2700 Eglinton Avenue West
To assist in scheduling, if you wish to address the Budget Sub-Committees, please notify the City Clerk, Budget Committee, by calling 416-392-1032 or 416-397-7768, or e-mail email@example.com no later than 12 p.m. on January 18, 2011, indicating your preferred date and location. There will be a 5 minute time limit for each presentation.
To submit written comments to the Budget Sub-Committees, please send your letter to Merle MacDonald, City Clerk’s Office, Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen Street West, 10th floor, West Tower, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2, by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 416-392-1879. Any comments received after the Sub-Committee and Budget Committee meetings will be processed to Council.
The Budget Committee will make its final recommendations on February 10, 2011, which will be forwarded for Executive Committee’s consideration at its special meeting on February 17, 2011 and to City Council at its meeting on February 23 to 28, 2011.
Update – December 16, 2010
City Council has voted in favour of the following budget process schedule for 2011.
- January 10: Budget launch – capital, operating, waste, water, agencies, boards and commissions (takes place at City Hall, 100 Queen Street West, Council Chambers at 9:30 a.m. – all are welcome)
- January 11-14: Budget Committee meets to review all budgets, opportunity for all Councillors to ask questions, request briefing notes
- January 19-20: Public deputations on the capital and operating budgets (see details below)
- January 24-25: Budget Committee wrap-up
- February 10: Budget Committee final review
- February 17: Executive Committee debates/votes on budgets
- February 23-25, 28: City Council debates/votes on budgets
All Budget Committee and Executive Committee meetings are held at City Hall, 100 Queen Street West, Committee Room 1 starting at 9:30 a.m with the exception of the budget launch on January 10 which takes place in Council Chambers. City Council meetings on the budget take place at City Hall in Council Chambers starting at 9:30 a.m. All of these meetings are open to the public. Come early as these meetings are often packed.
Public Deputations: The Budget Committee is breaking into two subcommittees. Each subcommittee will hold two evening sessions for public deputations on January 19 and 20.
- Subcommittee for Scarborough and North York Consultations (Councillors Di Giorgio, D. Ford (chair of subcommittee), Milczyn and Parker)
- Subcommittee for Etobicoke York, Toronto and East York Consultations (Councillors Del Grande (chair of subcommittee and Budget Committee), Berardinetti and Lee)
Have Your Say! Public deputations are an opportunity for members of the public to give input into the City’s capital and operating budgets. People wishing to depute normally have 5 minutes to speak and can also submit something in writing. You can also make a written submission rather than an oral presentation if you prefer.
Public Deputation Dates:
- North York Civic Centre, Council Chambers: January 19, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.
- East York Civic Centre, Council Chambers: January 19, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.
- Scarborough Civic Centre, Council Chambers: January 20, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.
- York Civic Centre, Council Chambers: January 20, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.
- No downtown location, no daytime deputations
No details yet on who to contact to register for deputations or where to submit written comments. It is also not clear if/how the City will accommodate the public if there is a great demand to take part in deputations or specific deputation sessions. We are following up with the City clerk and Budget Chief for more details and will post as soon as available.
We strongly recommend that interested individuals and groups sign up to depute as soon as contact information is available.
SPT Member Forum on the City’s 2011 Operating Budget – Monday, January 17 from 3-5 p.m. at 519 Community Centre
This session will include an overview of the 2011 operating budget, and analysis of various aspects of the budget of interest to the nonprofit community sector and residents.
Confirmed speakers (to date): John Cartwright (Toronto and York Region Labour Council), Rob Howarth (Toronto Neighbourhood Centres), Jane Mercer (Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care), Michael Shapcott (Wellesley Institute), Karen Sun (Chinese Canadian National Council – Toronto Chapter), Susan Wright (Toronto Arts Council), speaker from the Toronto Environmental Alliance. More to come.
To register: email@example.com
Update – December 15, 2010
Monday, January 17 – Social Planning Toronto is planning a member forum on the 2011 City of Toronto operating budget on January 17. January 10 is the expected launch date for the budget. The SPT member forum will provide an opportunity to review and discuss the implications of the budget. Details on time, location and speakers to be announced. If you are interested in attending, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll follow up with all of the details.
Wednesday, January 19 and Thursday, January 20 – These are the scheduled dates for the City Budget Committee’s public hearings on the capital and operating budgets. City Council will revisit the budget process at its December 16 meeting. While these dates could change, it’s very likely that the public deputations will take place on January 19 and 20. The City plans to hold public deputations in four locations on the 19th and 20th. Please check www.toronto.ca and this webpage for regular updates on the 2011 City budget and budget schedule. Once the process and schedule is finalized, information will be available about how to reserve a spot to speak at deputations. Again check the websites for updates.
Like last year, Social Planning Toronto will regularly report on the 2011 City budget process, covering the outcome of each budget committee meeting. Check for updates on this webpage or you can sign up to receive regular email updates by emailing email@example.com
In related news, SPT Senior Researcher Beth Wilson deputed on behalf of the Toronto Open Budget Initiative (TOBI) to the City’s Striking Committee on December 8. Toronto Open Budget Initiative members are very concerned about the impact of the 2011 truncated budget process on public engagement and the opportunity for proper scrutiny of the City’s budgets. The 2011 process will cut the time available between budget launch and public deputations, introduce Budget Committee review meetings directly following the budget launch (unlike last year when Councillors had two weeks to review their budget binders before the Budget Committee meetings began), and shortens the scheduled time available for the full budget process by one month. From launch to final vote, the budget process is expected to be completed in less than two months – which includes review of all City budgets – operating, capital, waste and water, as well as, the agencies, boards and commissions. In addition to shutting out meaningful public engagement, it will be a mammoth undertaking for all City Councillors, and particularly the 14 rookie Councillors, to review, scrutinize and digest these budgets and the implications for their constituents.
Read TOBI’s deputation to the Striking Committee for more information. TOBI encourages all those making deputations on the City budget to include a short statement in their deputation, asking the Budget Committee for a better process in 2012 with proper time allotments to ensure meaningful public engagement. Read the TOBI Declaration for more information on this group’s ideas for re-envisioning the City budget process.
For information on the 2010 City Budget, please click here.