Budget 2010

City of Toronto Budget 2010 Updates


It’s a Wrap:  City Council Passes 2010 Operating Budget – April 16

Toronto City Council passed the 2010 operating budget last night.  The main budget motion passed 25 in favour, 20 opposed.  It was an eventful day with a few surprises.  Council passed the budget as recommended by the Executive Committee, with a few additions and deletions.

City Council Decision Document:  www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2010/cc/decisions/2010-04-15-cc48-dd.htm

Motions from the Council floor:

  • Good news for individuals and families accessing recreation programs for the first time in Toronto!  Council voted to scrap plans to charge individuals and families a $25 account set-up fee for first-time recreation users.  The original budget proposed a $50 set-up fee, which was cut down to $25 after City staff identified an additional $100 million in the 2009 surplus.  Councillor Ashton put forward a motion at yesterday’s Council meeting to scrap the proposed fee entirely which was accepted by a majority of Councillors (27,18).  Social Planning Toronto spoke out against this fee during its deputation, and is glad to see it gone.
  • City Council directed the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer to develop an exemption from the Personal Vehicle Tax for residents who are over the age of 65 and/or disabled, and who have a gross income of less than $50,000, and to report to the Executive Committee with an implementation plan for the 2011 budget process.  Councillor Mammoliti brought forward the original motion regarding seniors.  Councillor Perruzza brought forward the successful amendment to include people with disabilities.  Councillor Cho attempted to have the unemployed included in this exemption but his motion was unsuccessful.  Councillor Mammoliti’s motion passed 35-9.
  • Councillor Moscoe brought forward two motions regarding wards that have experienced large growth in population and households.  The first motion called for a staff report to look at the growth in wards and the need for reallocation of resources to address the question of how to ensure Councillors in wards with high growth are properly resourced to serve those communities.  His second motion authorized the City Manager to provide one additional staff person to Councillor offices with significant growth in the number of people and households in the ward.  Both his motions were successful (42-3, 28-17, respectively).
  • Councillor Heaps made a motion that the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer provide a report to the Executive Committee by November 2011 with recommendations for the creation of a multi-year budget process commencing in 2012.  The report is to include a revised budget consultation and approval process that would allow operating and capital budgets to be considered at the same time and for the budget process to run from January to November.  Councillor Heaps commented that this year’s budget process had the fewest public deputations in recent memory.  His motion was successful 43-2.  Toronto Open Budget Initiative (TOBI) members identified the need to change the budget process so that both operating and capital recommended budgets are introduced before decisions are made on either.  Councillor Heaps’ motion is a good step forward in this regard.
  • Councillor McConnell made a motion for the Toronto Police Services Board with the Chief Financial Officer to provide a report to the Executive Committee by August 16  to update the Executive on the cost of downloaded policing costs from the federal government to the City.  The motion passed unanimously.  Councillor McConnell stated that the City is covering an estimated $75 to $100 million in policing costs that should be paid by the federal government.
  • Councillor Perks brought a motion forward requesting that the Zoo Board not reallocate any funds within the 2010 operating budget in-year for travel expenses by board members.  Last year, the board had not included any funds for board travel expenses in their budget but approved funds mid-year.  Councillor Perks wants to send the message not to do that again.  The motion passed 35-10.

Motions that failed:

  • 10% cut to community and arts grant funding (CPIP) (Ford; 11-33)
  • Elimination of numerous new user fees (Ford)
  • Reduction in staffing levels for most divisions, departments, office, specific staff cuts in different areas, and requests to reduce staffing levels in agencies, boards and commissions, with the exception of police, fire and EMS (Ford)
  • Elimination of Our Toronto and City Insider newsletters (Ford)
  • A motion to delete Councillor Carroll’s motion regarding a request for a staff report looking at how the CIty can move forward on the Culture Plan, funding to the arts which would take into consideration new revenues from the billboard tax (Minnan-Wong; 13-30)
  • Cut to legal positions related to TransitCity (Lindsay Luby)
  • An additional 5% cut to Councillors’ office expenses (budget already includes 5% cut) (Lee)
  • Increase by an additional 1% for a total of 2% for salaries of non-unionized and management staff as unionized staff received (Walker)
  • Motion to include the unemployed in motion regarding personal vehicle tax exemption (Cho)

The highs, the lows, curious moments:

  • Several Councillors commended Councillor Grimes for elevating the level of debate in the chamber.  Councillor Grimes took a positive tone, praising the budget for what it would do for his constituents.  He detailed the various projects that the budget would support in his ward, and talked about the many priorities of his constituents.  His speech, in particular, put constituents at the centre of the debate and the issues.
  • Councillor Minnan-Wong presented some charts and graphs to make his argument which included: costs are going up, services going down, Toronto is less affordable.  He stated that the number of employees at City Hall is up by 4,000 since 2003 (figures from the Councillor, not City staff), and then showed a pie chart which gave the impression that the Mayor’s Office had grown by over 1,000 positions.  This drew quite a bit of laughter and heckling.  In fact, he was intending to suggest that the Mayor’s Office staffing levels had increased by 27%, not that 27% of the new jobs were in the Mayor’s Office.  Research tip: Use bar chart not pie chart in such an instance, include raw numbers for context (for example, an office of 10 that increases by 5 positions experiences a 50% increase in staffing levels, but among 4,000 new positions would only account for .125% of the new positions, a fraction of 1%).
  • Couple notes on employment levels:  Earlier in the meeting, the City Manager reported that City staffing levels are down by more than 400 positions, with the exception of Ontario Works positions which are increasing because of the high number of people on OW due to the recession.  Another important point in considering the overall workforce level is knowing who is paying for what.  The provincial and to a far lesser extent, the federal governments fund certain programs administered by the municipal government.  Where costs are covered 100% by senior levels of government, no funds from the property tax base are used to fund those positions.  The staffing levels at the City are affected by the programs and levels of funding provided by senior levels of government.

  • Councillor Mammoliti has received hundreds of emails from the arts community and supporters regarding the billboard tax debate.  At the Executive Committee meeting last week, Councillor Mammoliti suggested that the billboard tax revenues should be used to pay for seniors programs as well as arts funding.  Councillor Carroll responded via twitter that Councillor Mammoliti was “torpedoing” her arts motion (calling for a staff report on advancing the Culture Plan and taking into consideration revenues from the billboard tax), to which Councillor Mammoliti rose on a point of personal priviledge making reference to Councillor Carroll’s “tweet” and that she had misspelled his name.
  • The 2009 surplus was over $354 million.  The Chief Financial Officer said it was an exceptional year not to be repeated.  Investment income exceeded expectations, the City saved millions from the strike, instituted cost restraints and benefitted from tax efficiencies.  Although the City will continue to institute cost restraints (5% cuts this year, 5% next year). the CFO does not expect another large surplus like this again.  The 2010 surplus is estimated at around $70-80 million.
  • The Mayor took pains to explain the difference between gross budget expenditures and net budget expenditures.  Gross budget expenditures (the total budget amount) includes spending related to programs and services funded by federal and provincial governments, including provincially-mandated programs.  The Mayor explained that an increase in gross budget expenditures doesn’t say anything about how much the City is spending from its own revenue base such as property taxes.  For that, look to the net budget expenditures.
  • City’s Economic Development staff are going to conduct a study to understand the flow of business in and out of the city, why business come, leave, stay.
  • Councillor Moscoe blessed the Council with a wave of his arts wand he received from the Yorkdale Community Centre for the Arts.  It was a funky wand.

Councillor quotes of the day:

“Let’s have a group socialist hug”

“Mayor Miller is the Merlin of money, the maestro of management”

“Congratulations to the City Manager for discovering the surplus.  Perhaps we should consider changing his title to the City Magician”

“Suck and blow that’s what you do, you want programs in your wards and you don’t want to pay for them”

This is my final update on the 2010 City budget process.  I’ll keep folks posted on next year’s budget process as information becomes available.


Update on City of Toronto’s Operating Budget – April 8

At their meeting on April 7, the City of Toronto’s Executive Committee reviewed and approved the City of Toronto proposed operating budget. City staff made presentations on the proposed budget and answered Councillors’ questions during this session. Much of the presentations were similar to those delivered to the Budget Committee. There were some changes related to the additional $100 million surplus identified by City finance staff after they closed the 2009 books a few weeks ago.

City staff presentation to the Executive Committee: www.toronto.ca/budget2010/pdf/op2010_presentation_exec_april7.pdf

Below I have identified new issues raised or further details provided during the City staff presentations. I haven’t gone into detail about the entire presentations as most of this was covered in earlier updates.

Highlights from the presentations:

  • The City will begin to meet with the Province next week with the aim of establishing an agreement on permanent transit operating funding by December 1, 2010. Lack of predictable, long-term, sustainable transit funding remains an outstanding issue to be resolved. The City is looking for a 50-50 cost-sharing on transit operating funding with the Province, which would amount to $255 million in the 2011 budget. Cost sharing on transit for U.S. cities is, on average, a 50-50 split between cities and the U.S. federal government. Toronto is the only jurisdiction that bears 100% of the cost with no ongoing, predictable contribution from senior orders of government. The Province has in past years given ad hoc funding for transit operations (not this year), but makes no long-term commitment.
  • Residential property taxes are set to increase by 3% and overall business property taxes are set to increase by less than 1%. However, not all business property taxes will increase (if budget is passed as is). Property taxes for small businesses (defined according to value of property, rather than business revenues) and apartment owners are being reduced.
  • City staff were directed to look at implications for the potential sale of public assets such as Toronto Hydro. After a preliminary look, staff reported that if the City of Toronto decided to sell off its shares in Toronto Hydro, it would have to pay substantial transfer and departure taxes to the Province, which would be an important consideration in City Council’s decision regarding asset sales. A staff report on the question of public asset sales is expected in May or June.
  • While the funding situation of the City is improving, and the City projects smaller opening funding pressures in the 2011 budget (a smaller hole to fill in the 2011 budget than the hole filled in the 2010 budget), structural funding problems remain in the years to come. The City has proposed a full funding solution including a 50-50 transit operating funding agreement with the Province (starting next year), social housing cost upload (phased in over subsequent years), one cent share of the sales tax (phased in over subsequent years). Without cooperation from the provincial government, the City will continue to face budget shortfalls in the years to come, likely resulting in large property tax increases and service cuts.

Highlights from the discussion:

  • Councillor Holyday questioned how reasonable it is to expect senior orders of government to agree to cost-sharing, sales tax sharing and uploads. Regarding arts funding related to the billboard tax, he said that the City is not in a position to be giving away $10 million, and that arts like all areas should be funded within the City’s means. Several Councillors spoke about the commitment the City has made to the arts community in regards to the billboard tax and the culture plan. Councillor Fletcher pointed out that funding to the arts is not a giveaway but an effective direct stimulus that creates jobs and supports priority neighbourhoods.
  • Councillor Chow asked about the TTC funding and issues with the Province.
  • Councillor Walker asked which departments met their 5% reduction targets and which didn’t. The police budget did not meet its target. Councillor McConnell spoke about how the City is required to pay the wage increases that were established by the provincial arbitrator which is driving the police budget. She also mentioned that while the Premier was advising municipalities to institute wage freezes, the provincial arbitrator made decisions to increase police salaries that municipalities must pay.
  • Councillor Mammoliti said that his earlier support for the vehicle registration tax was the worst mistake he ever made, that it is extremely unpopular, and wanted to see seniors exempt from the tax. He also wanted to have the billboard tax revenues go to support seniors, as well as, arts groups, and asked questions about how the City is preparing for the aging of the population. He also asked about the impact of selling Toronto Hydro, if Council made the decision to sell its shares. CFO Cam Weldon responded that the Province would get significant tax revenue from that sale, and it would not be as lucrative for the City as they would like it to be. As well, the CFO mentioned that the City’s ownership in Toronto Hydro meets other objectives identified by Council. Councillor Mammoliti also asked about the billboard industry’s lawsuit against the City. City Manager Joe Pennachetti confirmed that the City is being sued over the billboard tax. Councillor Mammoliti asked when the additional $100 million in surplus funds were found. The City Manager responded that the funds were not found, but that when the the proposed budget was introduced on February 16, the City finance staff were in the middle of closing off the 2009 books, and the surplus figures included in the 2010 proposed budget were conservative estimates. He mentioned that staff should have said that the proposed budget included a portion of the surplus as the figures were still being finalized. As well, he noted that the books are still subject to audit.
  • Councillor Pantalone mentioned the new Federation of Canadian Municipalities report which documents policing costs that the federal government should be paying for (such as anti-terrorism, anti-narcotics, border control), but that municipalities are covering. For the City of Toronto, the amount is estimated at a minimum of $50 million to nearly $100 million. He and Councillor McConnell spoke about the need to recoup those costs from the feds. Councillor Pantalone also asked about the leasing of City ski hills and how the contracting out of these services would preserve access for low income residents. The City is putting out a request for proposals which will ask how operators will accommodate various groups. An RFP will also go out to lease the City campground. A staff report is expected for June or August regarding the RFP on the ski hills.
  • Councillor McConnell said the need for TTC cost-sharing with the Province and need for the federal government to pay for its share of policing costs were the most important issues for the City Council to take on and be vocal about. She mentioned that 7-15% of policing expenses should be paid for by the federal government and are not currently.
  • Councillor Moscoe pointed out that the $100 million in additional surplus is a very small percentage of the overall City budget, it is expected that the final figures are going to differ from earlier estimates and the $100 million is not out of line. He asked what the City’s philosophy is around user fees. The CFO responded that there is no comprehensive policy framework on user fees and that staff will be bringing forward a plan on user fees.
  • Mayor Miller praised the work of City staff and the Budget Committee in developing the budget during difficult times. He pointed out that the City’s latest credit rating is excellent, and that the City is on the right track in managing its debt. Councillor Carroll also praised staff and the Budget Committee for their work.

The Executive Committee passed several motions and voted in favour of the operating budget.

Decision document from April 7 Executive Committee meeting: www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2010/ex/decisions/2010-04-07-ex42-dd.htm

Motions that passed included: request for reports to come to City Council on April 15 with charts showing the percentage of property tax increases historically and within surrounding municipalities, and regarding wards that have experienced unusually high increases in population and households (related to need for increased constituency office funding) (Moscoe), a report on downloaded costs from the federal government to Toronto property taxpayers (Pantalone), that RFPs for the ski hills include conditions regarding the provision of free programs supported through the Welcome Policy (Davis), City staff to establish 5% reduction target for 2011 budget and a request for report on strategies to advance the culture plan, funding the arts and taking into account the billboard tax revenue source (Carroll)

Councillor Mammoliti put forward a motion to exempt seniors from the vehicle registration tax, which did not pass and was not supported by any other Councillors. Councillor McConnell pointed out that there are policies to exempt low income seniors from taxes and defer tax payments for seniors with modest incomes. Councillor Fletcher, in response to Councillor Mammoliti’s motion, said that it should be about low income residents and not seniors who are not all low income.

Next Steps: The operating budget now goes to City Council for a final vote. City Council meets on April 15 and 16 beginning at 9:30 AM in Council Chambers.


Update on City of Toronto’s Operating Budget – March 12

On Wednesday, March 10, Mayor David Miller held a press conference announcing that the City’s 2009 surplus would be $100 million more than anticipated when the proposed operating budget was introduced almost one month ago. The Mayor said that the proposed budget, this year and every year, includes an estimate of the surplus for the previous year, but that these figures are not finalized by City staff until March or April.  This year, the staff’s final figures show a surplus of $350 million, up from the $250 million estimate.  The Mayor has recommended that $75 million of these additional surplus funds be placed in reserve to assist the City in balancing the 2011 budget, with the remainder used to address 2010 budget issues, including property tax increases.  The City Manager commented today that the City’s books will be audited in June, and while they don’t expect any major changes from the staff’s final figures, changes can result from the audit process.

From the Mayor’s statement:

“I have spoken with the Chair of the budget committee, Councillor Shelley Carroll, and have recommended to her, based on what we have heard from Torontonians, and on the principles of sensible financial planning, that the surplus be allocated to produce the following result:

  1. Lower taxes by lowering the proposed tax increase to 2.9 per cent on residential property and less than one per cent on business;
  2. Better services by using funds carefully to address concerns about user fees and service cuts where it can be done in a sustainable way;
  3. A balanced 2011 budget by placing the remainder in a tax stabilization reserve that will allow for a balanced 2011 operating budget with no TTC fare increase, assuming of course a 3% tax increase in that year and the successful conclusion of the agreed upon negotiations with the Province regarding its long awaited re-assumption of the sharing of TTC operating costs.”

“The growth in the surplus comes from several areas, including:

  • cost containment measures implemented by the City Manager in 2009 to build a surplus that could be used to offset 2010 pressures
  • wage constraint on management and front line staff
  • higher than expected interest and investment earnings as a result of careful financial management during a very challenging time in world markets
  • parking revenues which were higher than expected
  • increases in supplementary taxes – those are revenues from new development and new construction
  • reduction in assessment appeals.”

For the Mayor’s full statement:  http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/it/newsrel.nsf/7017df2f20edbe2885256619004e428e/f29d94ecb6f4ed7f852576e20057ad7b?OpenDocument

March 12 Budget Committee Meeting

It was standing-room only at this afternoon’s Budget Committee meeting for the wrap-up session on the operating budget.  Staff presented the long-term fiscal plan update which spells out how the City aims to get out of its structural funding shortfalls in the years to come.  In particular, the City wants to negotiate a 50-50 transit operating funding arrangement with the Province, a share of the sales tax and social housing upload.  Remains to be seen how the Province will respond.  Service cuts are still on the table for future budget years.  Without these new arrangements, cuts will be very substantial for future years.  As well, the plan touches on the question of monetizing City assets (privatization/selling off of City-owned enterprises like Toronto Hydro, Enwave and Toronto Parking Authority).  The presentation is not yet up on the City’s website.  Check here over the coming days:  http://www.toronto.ca/budget2010/index.htm

Good News … The proposed operating budget introduced just over three weeks ago included several program and service cuts, increases and introductions to user fees, and other detrimental changes.  Today, the Budget Committee passed several motions to reverse or lessen the impact of these changes, and to increase funding in some areas.  Funds from the additional $100 million from the 2009 surplus allowed for these changes in most cases.  Changes included:

  • 2% increase to agencies funded by the Community Partnership and Investment Program (recommendation had been to flatline community grants program)
  • Total funding of $541,000 to student nutrition programs as recommended by the Medical Officer of Health and Board of Health (much smaller amount had been recommended)
  • Maintain Sunday library hours (recommendation had been for some Sunday closures)
  • Introduction of $25 user fee for new families signing up for recreation programs (recommendation had been $50)
  • Maintain rental agreements for child care centres located in schools through child care reserve funds  (recommendation had been to end agreement which would have resulted in increased charges for fee-paying parents)
  • 2% increase to Toronto International Film Festival Group
  • Annual grant to Glenn Gould Foundation re the arts
  • Increase residential property tax by 2.9% and non-residential by .967% (recommendation had been 4% and 1.33% respectively)

During the public deputations, Social Planning Toronto joined others in advocating for a cost of living increase to community organizations, seed funding for the Housing Opportunities Toronto plan, and dropping the recommendations on Sunday library closures, termination of child care rental agreements, and the $50 recreation user fee.  We didn’t get everything we were looking for, but are very pleased to see today’s recommendations from the Budget Committee.

Other motions that passed:

  • Cut Councillors’ expense budgets by 5%
  • Non-salary reductions to City’s accountability offices
  • General Manager in Children’s Services to work with Province to address child care funding issues
  • Section 37 developers’ fees allocated to various community benefit initiatives
  • Request for report on cost recovery options related to Lobbyist Registry

Last week, City staff had recommended that the City lease out its ski hills and campground, privatizing these assets.  The Budget Committee made no motions and had no debate on these issues.

Councillor Shelley Carroll indicated that she would be putting forward a motion at the Executive Committee to request a staff report on how revenue from the Billboard Tax could, in future budgets, be phased-in over multiple years to support the arts (as advocates for this tax had intended).

The Budget Committee completes its process on March 26 at the final operating budget wrap-up.  The recommendations of the Budget Committee then go to the Executive Committee on April 7, and the Executive Committee recommendations go to the full City Council on April 15 and 16 for a final vote on the operating budget.

Through the course of the operating budget review process, Councillors have requested briefing notes.  These City staff prepared notes provide further details on a variety of issues including child care, recreation user fees, the Toronto Environmental Office and more.  Briefing notes:   http://www.toronto.ca/budget2010/briefingnotes_operating.htm

Last week, City staff made presentations on various program and services areas included in the budget, including Citizen Centred Services A (these are the ‘soft services’ including human service delivery programs like child care, recreation and the arts), Citizen Centred Services B (the ‘hard services’ like fire services, licensing and standards, city planning etc.) and Agencies, Boards and Commissions (such as libraries and public health),

Presentations:   http://www.toronto.ca/budget2010/operating_presentations.htm

Upcoming Meetings at City Hall:

Operating Budget
Final Wrap-up
Budget Committee
March 26, 2010
Committee Room 1
9:30 a.m.
Operating Budget
Special Executive Committee
April 7, 2010
Committee Room 1
9:30 a.m.
2010 Operating Budget
City Council
April 15 & 16, 2010
Council Chamber
9:30 a.m.

Next Toronto Open Budget Initiative meeting: Wednesday, March 24 from 9:30-11 AM at Social Planning Toronto, 2 Carlton Street, Suite 1001.  Please RSVP.


Update on City of Toronto’s Operating Budget – March 5

The Budget Committee met very briefly this morning to review budgets from Agencies, Boards and Commissions (ABCs), with the exception of Toronto Public Health which was reviewed on Wednesday, and Toronto Police Services and Toronto Police Services Board which will be reviewed on March 12.  It was an extremely short session – no staff presentation, no questions and no motions – with the exception of an in camera question from Councillor Mihevc on Toronto Parking Tag Enforcement and Operations.  As it was a confidential matter, the committee discussed the matter in private.  Councillors were invited to reconvene at 11 a.m. and it’s possible that they may bring forward questions on the ABC budgets at that time, but there was no sense from the 9:30 a.m. call for questions that any further discussion will take place at 11 a.m.

Next dates:

  • Friday, March 12 at 2 p.m. in Committee Room 1 – Budget Committee meets to review Toronto Police Service and Toronto Police Services Board budgets, receive presentation on long-term fiscal plan update and have wrap-up.
  • Friday, March 26 at 9:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1 – Budget Committee holds final wrap-up
  • Wednesday, April 7 at 9:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1 – Executive Committee reviews operating budget
  • Thursday and Friday, April 15 and 16 in Council Chambers – City Council reviews and votes on operating budget


Update on City of Toronto’s Operating Budget – March 4

This week is a busy one on the City budget front.  On Monday and Tuesday, by my count, there were around 80 deputants that took part in the public hearings.  On Wednesday, the Budget Committee met to review services in Cluster A (311, Affordable Housing Office, Children’s Services, Court Services, Economic Development and Culture, EMS, Long-term Care Homes and Services, Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, Toronto Employment and Social Services, and Community Partnership and Investment Program), Toronto Public Health, City Manager’s Office, Legal Services, City Clerk’s Office and the Accountability Offices.  This morning, the Budget Committee reviewed services in Cluster B (City Planning, Fire Services, Municipal Licensing and Standards, Policy, Planning, Finance and Administration, Technical Services, Toronto Building, Toronto Environment Office, Transporation Services, Waterfront Secretaritat) and Internal Services (Facilities and Real Estate, Fleet Services, Information and Technology, Office of the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer, and Office of the Treasurer).  Tomorrow, March 5, they move on to Agencies, Boards and Commissions budgets, with the exception of Toronto Police Service and Toronto Police Services Board which will be discussed on March 12.

Highlights on the Budget Process:

  • Child care workers, and the arts community were in particular out in full force at the public hearings.  Main message from child care: Don’t cancel the rental agreement arrangements with school boards; it will present a real financial burden for full fee-paying parents and destabilize a system that is going through major change at the moment.  Main message from the arts groups:  City Council committed to an annual 2% cost of living increase from the arts, and they need to deliver (arts groups like community groups receiving City funding are flatlined).  Beautiful City and arts groups also spoke about the billboard tax that the arts group helped the City initiate last year.  Groups are feeling betrayed that that money has not been directed to community arts as had been the goal.
  • Other items: Cancel the $50 recreation set-up fee for new families, seed the affordable housing plan including funds to support community-City advocacy efforts directed at senior levels of government, direct 50% of Section 37 funds to affordable housing, need for additional funding for rental housing inspections, cancel the plan for some Sunday closings at libraries, keep the cost of living increase promise to community agencies,
  • On Monday evening, John Tory held a radio show encouraging people to come to City Hall to depute.  At the end of the evening, there were a handful of angry residents deputing against property tax increases, resulting in quite a heated exchange.  Earlier in the evening, the Toronto Board of Trade deputed recommending that the City call in the Auditor General to review the TTC budget saying the budget increase was too high.  Councillors responded that the gross budget goes up when we have more riders, and that a decision was made to expand non-peak bus routes in the suburbs which deliver better service, but raise costs.  When asked how they would cut down costs in the budget, TBOT didn’t offer much but did mention contracting out.  There was another heated exchange between TBOT and Councillors challenging the board’s analysis.

While not included in the budget overview, it is come out in recent days that City staff are advising the City to lease out/privatize its two ski hills and campground.  This would result in the loss of affordable access to skiing for low income residents through the Welcome Policy (Parks and Rec subsidy program) and would result in higher prices for use of these facilities by private operators, as well as, hundreds of jobs lost.

The Budget Committee had a full day session on March 3 on the Cluster A or soft services.  There was much discussion and several motions are coming forward to be voted on on March 12 at the budget wrap up.  Motions include scrapping the plan to end City rental agreements with the school boards for child care space, scrapping the $50 family fee for new recreation users and drop-in fees at City pools.  Councillors also asked for more information regarding the ski hills.  I was not able to stay for the entire discussion but would refer you to more details in this article:  http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2010/03/03/13102446.html

This morning the Budget Committee focused on Cluster B or the hard services and internal services.  Councillors requested briefing notes on heritage districts, fire service over-time and licensing programs for dogs and cats (on the latter point, the staff are recommending to shut down a summer program where students go door to door registering dog and cat licenses).  One note outside budget process:  Staff will be bringing forward a report that looks at the Heat Program, a program out of the Toronto Environment Office that provides grants to single dwelling homeowners for home renovation and improvement related to home heating efficiencies and the like.  The staff report will focus on assisting more low income homeowners with access to grants for weatherstripping and caulking for example.

We encourage residents and groups to contact the Budget Committee members before March 12 (wrap-up) to express their concerns/support regarding the budget and motions coming forward on March 12, as well as, contacting their City Councillors directly.

For Budget Committee:  http://www.toronto.ca/committees/budget-committee.htm

For City Councillors:  http://app.toronto.ca/im/council/councillors.jsp

Excellent analysis in Reality Check: Toronto’s Budget Crunch in Perspective by Hugh Mackenzie:  http://www.local416.org/files/file/CUPE%20report_Hugh%20Mackenzie_Reality%20check_Toronto%20s%20budget%20crunch%20in%20perspective.pdf


Update on City of Toronto’s Operating Budget – February 25

The City of Toronto’s Budget Committee held Councillor hearings on the morning of February 25 to hear questions from City Councillors on the overview of the City’s operating budget. Public deputation sessions will be held on March 1 and 2. There’s still time to sign up to make a 5-minute presentation on the operating budget (contact Merle MacDonald at 416-392-7340 or mmacdona@toronto.ca). Sessions to burrow down on the details of specific program areas will take place on March 3, 4, 5 and 12. Details below on these meetings and public deputations.

Councillors were permitted to ask questions of City staff on the overview of the operating budget and recently distributed briefing notes on the operating budget. Find briefing notes, including one on user fees, here: http://www.toronto.ca/budget2010/briefingnotes_operating.htm

Highlights from discussion:

  • Councillor Stintz asked why the budget is up if departments were requested to cut spending by 5%. City staff responded that departments were asked to cut an amount equivalent to 5% of the property tax levy related to their department. Additional dollars come from provincial and federal governments and other sources.
  • Councillor Davis asked how much more/less City is spending on consultant fees, numbers of temporary jobs that City Council approves that turn into permanent jobs, and the impact of the City charging TDSB for the rent of child care centres that are located in schools, how this would impact families, what would happen if they didn’t make the change and used funds from reserves instead. Briefing notes to be provided on these items.
  • Councillor Hall also raised concerns about the child care centre rent issue. Both Councillors requesting briefing note.
  • City staff responded to questions regarding charging rent to TDSB saying that full fee paying parents were enjoying reduced child care rates because the City was covering the rents and the City by charging TDSB will be “correcting this inequity and improving accountability”. She said that it will result in an increase of $2 per day for full fee paying families and will not affect families receiving child care subsidies. For child care centres not in schools, centres have the responsibility of negotiating directly with landlords. She also said that subsidy per diem rates provided to child care centres to subsidize individual children include an amount for the centre’s overhead.
  • Other issues were raised re subsidized child care and potential loss of 5,000 spaces (2011-2012, but advocates say lost spaces will begin as early as June 2010 without provincial intervention, represents a loss of 21% of subsidized spaces in Toronto) with expiring funding from senior levels of government. Councillor Hall in particular raised questions about equity issues in the delivery of subsidized child care with regard to the potential losses. Report on this subject will be presented to the City’s Community Development and Recreation Committee in June.
  • Councillor Shiner asked about staffing level changes, use fees increases, and debt financing costs over time and into 2011 for each of these issues. Briefing notes to be provided.
  • Councillor Chow raised concerns about the recreation user fee increases and impacts on single mothers, including 10% increase for camp fees. He asked if staff had looked into how users would be impacted. Staff responded that the welcome policy which provides subsidies for qualifying low income families and individuals remains in effect and the amount has been increased to $8 million. Also that the recreation fees are lower than found in other municipalities, and that there are no private options that will be cheaper than what the City offers. Staff also mentioned that they will be conducting a review of the welcome policy and making recommendations before the 2011 budget to City Council. In particular, they are looking at capping the welcome policy amount at $8 million, allocating it by season (so once the seasonal allocation of funds runs out, no one else would get a subsidy) and shifting from a program-based subsidy to a dollar-based subsidy where users could apply dollar subsidies to the programs of their choice, and pay the difference when the subsidy amount runs out. These are possible changes for 2011, not 2010. Process of welcome policy review unknown. Councillor Chow also asked about the impact of reducing the property tax increase from the proposed 4% for residential to 3% and raising the business property tax so that the total revenue would remain the same. Staff informed him that by provincial law, non-residential property taxes could be no more than half of residential rates so 1.5% if residential rates are 3%, which would result in a substantial decrease in revenue ($12-13 million) compared to scenario that budget committee is proposing – 4% residential, 1.33% business. Councillor Chow also asked about having a hiring freeze with the exception of police, fire and EMS to save money. Budget Chief Shelley Carroll informed him that there is a hiring slowdown in place now where only front line positions for Council-approved projects are being filled. Otherwise departments have to go to the City Manager and Chief Financial Officer to request additions of any other new positions. Many new positions being hired to address service need issues such as 206 new OW caseload workers.
  • Councillor Vaughan asked about staffing level reductions and additions related to the TTC. The briefing note regarding the TTC staffing levels may be in error, with numbers transposed for TTC conventional and TTC wheeltrans service re staffing levels. He also asked about where development charges go to fund operating costs. Staff explained most funds go to capital but there are some exceptions such as development charges, flowed thru reserve funding, fund library acquisitions. Councillor Vaughan requested further details in a briefing note. He spoke about the possibility of tweaking development charges to address the funding cuts proposed for libraries (which would result in some Sunday closures). He also began to talk about a desire to use Section 37 funds for avenue studies (S37 funds come from developers that are given permission to develop properties beyond the usual height/density restrictions, in exchange the developers are required to provide funds that are to be used for community benefit; City planning department conducts avenue studies to envision the land use and design of particular major arteries in the City; e.g. St. Clair avenue study). He also asked about the planning budget which is now less than 1%. He requested a briefing note to look at the connection of development fees and planning department workload, mentioning that despite applications numbers being down, the planning department is busy as ever. Staff confirmed that development applications were way down last year, starting to improve in 2010.
  • Councillor Milczyn spoke about how budgeted revenues in the past have not been met, and asked why we believe that the revenue budgeted in this year’s budget will be met. Staff referenced the impact of the recession and how they are seeing increases in revenues this year. This discussion flowed into a discussion of Ontario Works caseloads. At present, the number of families/individuals receiving OW in Toronto is at just under 94,000. Last year’s average was 89,000 and it was budgeted for about 90,000. This year, the OW caseload is expected to increase to 105,000 on average. City consulted with Province and their figures are in agreement.
  • Councillor Holyday asked for briefing note on the new and enhanced service costs in the budget.
  • Councillor Davis asked why there is a separate budget line for the Toronto Police Services Board and not other boards and asked for a briefing note comparing budgets of the City’s boards. Staff confirmed that legislation requires that the TPSB be listed separate from Toronto Police Services in the budget. Staff to provide briefing note on board budgets. Councillor Davis also discussed inequities in who is bearing brunt of cuts re more libraries as a % of their budget, less police services.
  • Councillor Stintz asked if organized sports clubs will have to pay the new $50 fee for recreation account set-up as families will. Staff reported that a similar fee for organized sports groups was introduced last year. Councillor Stintz also asked questions about the Toronto Environment Office funding, whether it had been funded through the Hydro note, reserves, etc. A briefing note will follow.
  • Councillor Holyday mentioned that past police chiefs Boothby and Fantino both stated that contracting out cleaning services for police services could save $3.5 million. He requested a briefing note on the issue. Budget Chief Shelley Carroll mentioned that while City Council decides on the envelope of funds provided to police services, it is the polices services’ own budget committee that decides how money is allocated.
  • Budget Chief Shelley Carroll asked staff to highlight the highly prescribed recreation programs with user fees identified in the briefing notes. She also asked for a briefing note on staffing reductions – which are vacant positions, which occupied. This will be an in camera issue. She also asked for a briefing note that gives a breakdown of the total tax levy related to new positions. The existing note refers to additional positions, some which are funded 50-50 with the Province.
  • Register now to make 5-minute presentation on City operating budget on March 1 or 2 and/or provide written comments – Contact Merle MacDonald, Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen Street West, 10th floor, West Tower, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2 e-mail: mmacdona@toronto.ca phone: 416-392-7340, fax: 416-392-1879. See in chart below: “Making a public presentation”
    Next Meetings:

    Operating Budget – Public Hearings (Stakeholder Groups & General Public) Budget Committee March 1, 2010
    Council Chamber 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

    March 2, 2010

    Council Chamber 1:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
    Making a public presentation(deputation)
    Operating Budget Reviews
    Budget Committee
    March 3, 2010
    Citizen Centred Services ‘A’ (soft services; will also include Mayor’s Office, Accountability Offices and Toronto Public Health)
    Committee Room 1 – 9:30 a.m.

    March 4, 2010

    Citizen Centred Services ‘B’ (hard services) & Internal Services ‘C’
    Committee Room 1 – 9:30 a.m.

    March 5, 2010
    Agencies, Boards, Commissions & Other City Programs (except Toronto Public Health and Toronto Police Services)
    Committee Room 1 – 9:30 a.m.

    March 12, 2010

    Operating Budget Review & Regular Business Items (will include Toronto Police Services review)
    Committee Room 1 – 2:00 p.m.
    Operating Budget Final Wrap-up Budget Committee March 26, 2010
    Committee Room 1 – 9:30 a.m.
    Operating Budget Special Executive Committee April 7, 2010
    Committee Room 1 – 9:30 a.m.
    2010 Operating Budget
    City Council
    April 15 & 16, 2010
    Council Chamber – 9:30 a.m.


Analyst Notes Now Available

The detailed analyst notes are now available for the 2010 proposed operating budget at http://www.toronto.ca/budget2010/analystnotes_operating.htm


City Introduces 2010 Proposed Operating Budget – February 16

The 2010 proposed operating budget was introduced in Council Chambers this morning.  Mayor David Miller and Budget Chief Shelley Carroll made introductory remarks following which City Manager Joe Pennachetti, Director of Financial Planning Josie La Vita and Chief Financial Officer Cam Weldon presented the staff recommended 2010 operating budget.

Documents:

Detailed analyst notes are not yet available, but will be posted at www.toronto.ca/budget2010 (left column under Operating)

The 2010 operating budget is balanced.

Actions taken to balance the budget:

  • $87 million from property tax increase – 4% residential and 1.33% business
  • $172 million in cost reductions, service efficiencies and service changes (City Manager directed all departments and agencies, boards and commissions to cut budgets by 5%; internal review took place to identify areas to cut; no reference to any community input in this process; some details re cuts from media release see below; need analyst notes for full details, not yet posted)
  • $50 million in TTC fare increase (already announced)
  • $13 million in user fee increases and new user fees (few details in budget intro; mentions Oct 2009 budget directions and guidelines including increase user fees by at least the rate of inflation but protect the most vulnerable; need analyst notes once available for details)
  • Capital refinancing strategy to lessen debt and interest payments (approved during capital budget process)
  • Applying 2009 surplus to 2010 revenues (including $31 million savings from City workers’ strike)
  • Using reserve funds
  • No assets being sold

Budget priorities:

  • Protecting key services – EMS, fire, police, maintaining TTC service levels, children’s services, recreation and social services, 311 customer service strategy, increased pay-as-you go funding for capital program (i.e. debt restructuring that brings down principal and interest payments from operating budget)
  • Funding the ongoing impact of the recession – Ontario Works (105,000 OW cases on average projected for 2010; up from 90,000 in 2009; resulting from continued high unemployment thru 2010)

Highlights:

  • Mayor Miller’s top 10 budget facts including City of Toronto has the lowest property taxes in the entire GTA and we “can’t have a great city for free” – for full speaking notes, see link above
  • Budget Chief Carroll - (while less so than in the past) City is still reliant on unsustainable one-time measures to balance the budget; still needs permanent solutions to address structural funding shortfall, to this end, City will be finalizing Toronto-Ontario partnership agreement on permanent, sustainable transit operating funding by Dec 1, 2010 to commence in 2011
  • Other revenues helping City to balance the budget – land transfer and vehicle registration tax (2% of budget); third party sign tax (groups advocating for billboard tax wanted revenues to go to community art, budget intro only identifies it as part of the sustainable strategies for balancing the budget); provincial upload re ODSP/OW and COA Cap elimination; drawing down $63 million from reserves for provincially-mandated programs
  • Total budget $9.203 billion expenditures – Roughly 1/3 goes to provincially-mandated and cost-shared programs, 1/3 goes to TTC, police, fire and EMS; 1/3 goes to all other city programs, agencies, boards and commissions
  • Money comes from: 39% property taxes, 15% user fees, 2% land transfer and vehicle registration taxes, 17% other revenues, 4% reserves, 21% provincial transfers, 2% federal transfers
  • Where the proposed property taxes go: 70% emergency services, TTC and provincially mandated health and social services
  • Budget intro document (see link above) includes service areas, agencies, boards and commissions proposed budget compared to 2009 budget; some areas with net operating budget cuts include shelter, support and housing (3%), social development, finance and administration (2.6%), Toronto environment office (5%) (some details on service cuts below; need analyst notes for further details)
  • Community Partnership and Investment Program (largest community grants program) is flatlined
  • City passed Housing Opportunities Toronto 10-year affordable housing plan last year; no sense from budget intro how 2010 operating budget addresses the plan (Affordable Housing Office has proposed increase of $29,000; Shelter, Support and Housing Administration has proposed cut of $7.96 million)
  • Councillor Carroll plans to introduce a motion to cut Councillor office budgets by 5%

From City of Toronto media release:

“Some of the service level/budget changes proposed for 2010 will include:

  • reducing some administrative, human resources, policy, project and support staff in various areas.
  • eliminating in-person front counter service at front desks of City Hall and Civic Centres (kiosk and link to 3-1-1 will be provided).
  • reassigning work to staff that may result in delays in service times within some areas.
  • reducing overtime for Fire Services communications and marketing, fundraising and fire prevention units.
  • reducing staff in by-law enforcement through implementation of increased productivity measures.
  • Information Technology efficiency savings in hardware and software management.
  • reducing the Toronto Police Service requested budget by $5.9 million. The recommended 2010 operating budget for Toronto Police is $956 million.
  • eliminating Saturday service at Toronto Courts (no other municipality provides this service) and reducing hours during the week – offices will now close at 4:30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m.
  • deferring facilities maintenance within Parks.
  • reducing advertising and promotion costs of the LiveGreen program.
  • maintaining the current 8cm threshold for snow removal during certain months – keeping Toronto’s standard in line with that of Ottawa and Montreal will save approximately $2 million.
  • reducing Council staff salary budget by $338,000, through deferral of hiring when positions become vacant.
  • eliminating door-to-door pet licensing program as pet owners register and renew online.
  • reducing enforcement of the temporary sign by-law.
  • reducing Sunday hours at 27 of the libraries 99 branches for five Sundays in the fall.”

Dates and Next Steps:

  • Register now to make 5-minute presentation on City operating budget and/or provide written comments - Contact Merle MacDonald, Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen Street West, 10th floor, West Tower, Toronto, ON  M5H 2N2  e-mail: mmacdona@toronto.ca phone: 416-392-7340,  fax: 416-392-1879.  Deputations take place on March 1 and 2, see details below.
  • Learn more about the operating budget – Feb 18: Social Planning Toronto member forum.  Budget Chief Shelley Carroll introduces the operating budget; community panel provides analysis; opportunity for questions and comments.  519 Church Street Community Centre from 9:30 AM to noon; Please pre-register at www.socialplanningtoronto.org
  • Next Toronto Open Budget Initiative meeting – March 24 from 9:30 to 11 AM at Social Planning Toronto, 2 Carlton Street, Suite 1001
  • City operating budget process – date, time, location – all meetings are open to the public:
    Operating Budget – Councillor Hearings
    Budget Committee
    February 25, 2010
    Council Chamber
    9:30 a.m.
    Operating Budget – Public Hearings (Stakeholder Groups & General Public) Budget Committee March 1, 2010
    Council Chamber
    6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

    March 2, 2010
    Council Chamber
    1:30 p.m.  – 9:30 p.m.

    Making a public presentation(deputation)

    Operating Budget Reviews
    Budget Committee
    March 3, 2010
    Citizen Centred Services ‘A’
    Committee Room 1
    9:30 a.m.

    March 4, 2010
    Citizen Centred Services ‘B’ &
    Internal Services ‘C’
    Committee Room 1
    9:30 a.m.

    March 5, 2010
    Agencies, Boards & Commissions
    Committee Room 1
    9:30 a.m.

    March 12, 2010
    Operating Budget Review & Regular Business Items
    Committee Room 1
    2:00 p.m.

    Operating Budget
    Final Wrap-up
    Budget Committee
    March 26, 2010
    Committee Room 1
    9:30 a.m.
    Operating Budget
    Special Executive Committee
    April 7, 2010
    Committee Room 1
    9:30 a.m.
    2010 Operating Budget
    City Council
    April 15 & 16, 2010
    Council Chamber
    9:30 a.m.


City Council Passes Capital Budget

City Council passed the 2010 capital budget and 10-year capital plan this afternoon. With the exception of one minor amendment (related to the timing of a sidewalk repair), the capital budget passed as recommended by the Budget Committee and Executive Committee.

Some highlights not mentioned in previous updates:

  • Under the 10-year plan, 3 community centres (Edithvale, Warden Corridor and Railway Lands) will be built in the next 3 years.
  • 72% of funds in 10-year plan and 73% of funds from 2010 capital budget will go to TTC, transportation, GO/Union Station revitalization
  • The 30-year amortization period on Waterfront Revitalization and Spadina Subway extension will increase the overall cost of these projects by 1.6 billion; this additional amount will be spread out over the last 20 years of a 40-year financial cycle (2030-2050); other cities like Montreal and Winnipeg have done similar long-term financing; Chief Financial Officer, responding to a Councillor’s question, agreed it was not possible to finance projects of this size and expense without longer-term amortization periods; Montreal and Winnipeg have done so as well
  • 2009 capital budget was 1.6 billion; 2010 capital budget is 2.431 billion; increase largely driven by desire to take-up federal stimulus funding which required 2/3 municipal funding to access
  • City knew this day would come when they would be facing increased infrastructure costs related to TTC, had planned for it; opportunity to use federal stimulus funding pushed forward the date for these cash outlays; not replacing vehicles can have the effect of adding cost on the operating side in maintenance and repair
  • As mentioned in last update, Parks, Forestry and Recreation and Toronto Public Library are projected to both have state of good repair backlogs of over 10% of their asset values in 2019; the City Manager identified 5% as a benchmark for SOGR backlogs and identified the need for further investment; he said that the City would have more flexibility after 2015 to deal with these issues; for the next five years, there will be little room in the capital budget to add new initiatives because of the transit and transportation projects already committed
  • Chief Financial Officer pointed out that the choices for financing the capital plan are to either raise taxes or refinance; advantage of refinancing while interest rates are low; rate will be locked in for length of debenture; 25% of debt (about $200 million) will be amortized over 30 years and 75% ($600 million) over 10 years
  • Councillor Del Grande said the refinancing option was his idea that he presented 2 years ago and it was rejected
  • Most TTC projects are funded 1/3 feds, 1/3 prov, 1/3 municipal; projects under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund are funded 1/3 fed, 2/3 municipal
  • 1 billion in TTC projects were removed from the capital plan and deferred until after 2019 in order to fund the current TTC priorities
  • Refinancing will lower the City’s debt repayment costs over the next 15 years, the additional costs of 1.6 billion related to refinancing being paid out between 2030-2050
  • City revisits 10-year capital budget plan every year and can change it depending on the financial circumstances (e.g. if new federal funding becomes available)
  • City staff are having discussions with TTC and Province about possibly fast tracking the construction of the Scarborough/Malvern line related to Pan Am Games
  • Councillor Rob Ford moved several motions to cut large amounts out of the capital budget including, but not restricted to, funding for construction of community centres, shelter-related capital projects, bike plan, waterfront revitalization, library construction and expansion, environmental initiatives, and expanded exhibitions at the Toronto Zoo for orangutan, giraffe, gorilla, elephant, mandrill, Euroasia and the penguin. All motions failed. The mandrills are safe, for now.

The meeting concluded with the passing of all capital budget motions.

Operating budget process begins in the new year. I will send updates as dates become available. We are anticipating a longer timeframe between the release of the recommended operating budget and public deputations, as well as, day and evening deputation times, giving community members and groups more opportunity to have their say in this important budget.


Update on City of Toronto’s Capital Budget – December 3

The City of Toronto’s Executive Committee passed the capital budget at their meeting this morning. The capital budget now proceeds to City Council for a final vote on December 8.

Executive Committee members present: Mayor David Miller, Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, Councillors Shelley Carroll, Janet Davis, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Norm Kelly, Joe Mihevc, Howard Moscoe and Kyle Rae
Non-committee members present: Councillors Doug Holyday and Cliff Jenkins

Following a detailed presentation on the capital budget by City staff, Councillors asked questions, made statements and then voted on the motions to pass the capital budget and send it on to a final vote at City Council.

2010 capital budget and 2010-2019 capital plan presentation provides details: http://www.toronto.ca/budget2010/pdf/presentation2010recommended_capital_budget.pdf

Questions and Comments from Councillors:

Councillor Holyday criticized the plan to borrow more funds to pay for capital projects, and the extension from 10- to 30-year amortization periods on longer term capital projects such as the Spadina subway extension, suggesting that this was irresponsible and put the burden of debt on future generations. He also contrasted the increased spending on capital with the requirement of City departments to cut 5% from their operating budgets. Several Councillors challenged his comments, stating the plan to pay down debt to lower borrowing charges (by cashing in a Toronto Hydro promissory note) and extending amotization periods for longer term projects lessens the debt repayment burden in 2010, is financially prudent, and a smart use of resources that will allow City Council to take advantage of the rare opportunity of accessing federal and provincial stimulus funding for capital projects such as TTC. Councillor Davis spoke on how the capital budget and 10-year plan is making good on City Council’s 2005 fiscal plan, and that under the capital plan, the City will incur no new debt by 2014. Mayor Miller pointed out that the City’s credit rating will remain at a double-A rating under the current capital plan, unlike the provincial government that has seen a recent downgrading of their rating. Regarding the 30-year amortization period, Mayor Miller supported this approach saying that the people of today should not pay the full cost of infrastructure that will be enjoyed by people well into the future – in the case of the Spadina subway extension for 100 years. He also spoke highly of the Budget Committee’s work and the capital budget referring to the ‘headline’ for this budget as “City builds responsibly”.

Councillor Jenkins commented on City Council’s earlier decision to freeze development fees for new projects, challenged the notion that development would slow in the City as a result of raising development fees and suggested that the City’s need to borrow more funds was affected by its decision to freeze fees. There was considerable disagreement on this question. City staff estimated that revenues would be an additional $100,000-$200,000 over the next five years had there not been a fee freeze if fee increases had no impact on the rate of development and no appeals were made regarding fee increases – both assumptions that City staff and several Councillors doubted would be the case. Councillor Jenkins also asked about how much more the City will pay in the long-run for increasing amortization from 10- to 30-year periods for certain long term capital projects. Staff could not provide a dollar figure (related to the changing value of money, inflation) but answered that the extension of amorization period results in about a 10% increase based on present value basis and that the amount paid in full over time is also offset by the decision to pay down debt now. However it would not be a simple calculation to arrive at the full dollar amount that the City would pay in the end under different scenarios.

The majority of funds from the capital budget and 10-year capital plan are allocated to state of good repair (SOGR) capital projects – repair to existing infrastructure as opposed to service improvements and responding to new growth (although considerable dollars are going to growth related capital projects over the next five years which is related to the availability of stimulus money). The SOGR backlog is projected to be under 10% in most divisions by 2019 (as a % of the asset values) except for Parks, Forestry and Recreation (projected to decrease from 13% in 2010 to 10% in 2019) and Toronto Public Libraries (projected to increase from 7.4% in 2010 to 10% in 2019). Councillor Davis suggested that these divisions were carrying a greater burden of the backlog than other divisions and that needed to be addressed in future capital budgets. As well, she pointed out the need for more focus in future capital budgets on service improvements and growth related capital projects (particularly in the last five years of the 10-year plan) to respond to changing community needs.

The Executive Committee concluded the meeting after passing all motions pertaining to the capital budget.

Final Meeting on the Capital Budget:

Special City Council Meeting takes place at City Hall in Council Chambers on December 8 at 9:30 a.m.


Update on City of Toronto’s Capital Budget – November 26

The Budget Committee passed the capital budget in this morning’s meeting. The capital budget now goes to the Executive Committee on December 3 for review before going to City Council on December 8.

This morning’s meeting was a quick one. The Budget Committee passed all relevant motions to move the capital budget on to Executive Committee. A few cost-neutral motions were passed for the disposition of Section 37 funds for specific projects within the capital budget.

Four budget briefing notes were circulated at the meeting regarding: the allocation of funds from 2001-2009 for state of good repair work on Toronto arenas; results from a 2006 survey of users of municipal indoor ice facilitaties (this was brought forward in response to Councillor discussions re recent media reports on girls and women not getting equitable access to municipal indoor ice rinks in prime time); a response to a letter from Citizens Concerned about the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront; and 2010 civic improvement capital projects (this is primarily about improving landscape/streetscape in specific areas of the city, and how places were selected).

The Toronto Board of Trade’s submission on the capital budget was received by the committee with no discussion. TBOT’s submission includes eight recommendations focused on taking advantage of stimulus funding, finding a sustainable long-term fiscal strategy for financing infrastructure, pursuing a sound asset management and growth strategy, and ensuring Toronto’s global performance is best “in class” not just in Canada or in Ontario. Included in their recommendations: “…the City needs to focus on what it can do best and consider if it should be divesting itself of certain assets or services”. They go on to say: “Are there better ways of delivering these services and assets? Should the City even be divesting itself of certain programs or assets? This examination needs to consider things like the monetization of public property assets and the creative use of partnerships between governments and the private sector.” [Read: contracting out and privatization.]

Next Capital Budget Meetings:

December 3: Executive Committee at 9:30 AM at City Hall, Committee Room 1
December 8: Special City Council Meeting at 9:30 AM at City Hall, Council Chambers


Update on City of Toronto’s Capital Budget – November 16

The City’s Budget Committee met this morning to review the 2010 Recommended Capital Budget and 2010-2019 Recommended 10-Year Capital Plan. The following will give you the gist of the motions passed. Please check the Budget Committee minutes for exact wording.

  • That the Deputy City Manager investigate the potential for the City to purchase any schools/school properties from the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board as the school boards are moving to close several schools. Councillors discussed the potential for schools as community centres and community hubs. Councillor Davis also cautioned councillors against signalling that the City wants to acquire these properties, as much is left to be determined regarding school closures, boards will be looking for full market value and the schools may or may not be suitable for City needs. The Deputy City Manager is to report back to committee on these issues.
  • A few motions were passed regarding Section 37 funds. Section 37 of the Planning Act permits the City to authorize increases in permitted height and/or density through the zoning bylaw in return for community benefits, provided that there are related Official Plan policies in place (section 5.1.1 of the Official Plan as well as certain area-specific policies). There has long been a problem in being able to track where Section 37 funds from developers have been allocated and this issue has been part of the capital budget discussion among councillors.
  • The motions passed request a staff report on how it happened that section 37 funds for a Scarborough day care were lost for over two decades (City staff mentioned that they have been making changes to fix the section 37 issue for the past two years, so this work will likely be part of that staff report). Also two motions were passed to release section 37 to specific projects which had been approved in the past.
  • A motion calling for a feasibility study for a Don Mills Community Centre was referred to Parks, Forestry and Recreation, that PFR rather than conduct these one-off studies should consider it within the larger recreation service plan and facilities review process. The City has a priority list for where new community centres are to be built over the next 10 years.
  • A motion was passed regarding the disposition of funds for the Pan-Am Games – a total of $49.5 million gross overall for facilitities and upgrade projects. See also 2009 briefing note: http://www.toronto.ca/budget2010/pdf/cap2010_bn_panam.pdf
  • A motion was passed regarding the disposition of funds for the approved acquisitiion of 819 Sheppard Avenue West related to TTC operations.
  • Councillor Mihevc moved a motion referring a small change to the TTC capital budget (no financial implications) to the Budget Committee’s final capital budget wrap up on Thursday. Essentially he wanted to change one of the recommendations in the capital plan that called for further discussion with senior orders of government to increase funding for specific capital projects, and that the City should not restrict it’s ask of senior orders of government to just 1/3 or 2/3 of the capital project cost.

Next meetings in the capital budget process:

November 26: Capital Budget Wrap-Up at 9:30 AM at City Hall, Committee Room 1
December 3: Executive Committee at 9:30 AM at City Hall, Committee Room 1
December 8: Special City Council Meeting at 9:30 AM at City Hall, Council Chambers

Although there are no further opportunities to make public presentations on the capital budget, individuals and groups can contact their Councillors and are encouraged to send comments or recommendations to the Executive Committee prior to their December 3.

Executive Committee Secretariat contact:
Patsy Morris
Toronto City Hall
pmorris@toronto.ca or 416-392-9151


Update on City of Toronto’s Capital Budget – November 13

The Budget Committee held a public hearing on the capital budget today (Nov 13). Today’s meeting was the only opportunity for the public to make deputations on the capital budget – however there are still opportunities to send comments and recommendations to City Councillors including the Executive Committee before the capital budget is voted on by City Council in December.

Send comments or recommendations on the capital budget to the Executive Committee prior to their December 3 meeting:
Executive Committee Secretariat contact:
Patsy Morris
Toronto City Hall
pmorris@toronto.ca or 416-392-9151

A very short list of speakers made deputations today (likely because of the short timeframe to review the capital budget (introduced Nov 3) and prepare a deputation (Nov 13)):

  • Nancy Smith Lea with the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation (TCAT) (support for better cycling and pedestrian environment; concerns with delays in implementing trail and pathway projects; recommendations supporting increased funding for trails and pathways, creating complete streets);
  • Rosemarie Powell with Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre (recommendations around local hiring strategies; sorry did not hear full dep);
  • Michael Rosenberg (recommendations to reallocate funds for technology to other priorities; need for capital and operating budgets to be considered together as they affect one another);
  • David McDonald from Merit Openshop Contractors Association of Ontario (arguing that City staff underestimate how much is spent on restricted tendering; too much spent on unionized shops that are allies of government); and
  • Ron Fletcher with the Toronto Bicycling Network (more roads not answer to congestion; increasing TTC fares counterintuitive to promoting transit use, getting people out of cars; need to implement plans to create walkable, bikeable, pro-transit city)

Following the deputations, City Councillors posed questions of staff and made statements regarding their intent to bring forward motions at Monday’s Budget Committee meeting. Councillors included Budget Committee and non-Budget Committee members. Discussion highlights:

  • Councillor Minnan-Wong: City of Toronto received federal stimulus money ($200 million) and Recreational Infrastructure Canada funding ($40 million) which moves capital projects forward but 10-year capital budget remains the same; if budget was offset by this $240 million in funding, where did original funds get allocated? Staff: combination of money added to TTC capital projects, funds for old city hall, police evidence facility
  • Councillor Thompson: Media reports have shown that section 37 funds have been lost, rediscovered after two decades in Scarborough. How does this happen? Staff: City has been working for the past two years on a project to improve tracking of section 37 and section 45 funds; always on the books, but not recorded in the same place; can’t answer specific questions about the Scarborough funds, will report back
  • Councillor Stintz: Did streetcar deal signed in July create cashflow problems that resulted in City needing to take out 30-year debt amortization? Staff: No, it was a combination of TTC capital purchases, federal stimulus, and more conservative forecast on debt charges (30-year amortization hasn’t affected City’s bond rating)
  • Councillor Stintz: Does capital budget include our commitments re Pan-Am Games? Is there a problem in meeting these commitments? Staff: Staff are working on a briefing note re spending on Pan-Am Games which will be part of the 2010 City Budget; most funds for Pan-Am Games are not in budget yet; 30-year amortization has created more cushion for City
  • Councillor Del Grande: Will City be selling assets this year (like previous years with telephone polls)? Staff: No
  • Councillor Minnan-Wong: Discussed need for Don Mills community centre, and work on Don East Regional Trail
  • Councillor Thompson: Supports use of section 37 funds for improvements to local child care facility
  • A few Councillors brought up the Toronto District School Board’s plan to sell schools and opportunity for City to purchase, use space for community use, much cheaper than building from scratch, could provide community centres that City can’t afford to build
  • Councillors discussed motions that they would bring forward at Monday’s meeting covering many of these issues