January 17: It was high drama at the final day of the 2012 City budget process at City Hall. City Council met to review and vote on the 2012 City operating and capital budgets. Although three days were set aside to conclude the budget process, City Council whipped through debate and completed its voting by early evening. In the end, City Council, mostly by narrow margins, voted to safeguard nearly $19 million in City services that had been slated for cuts in the staff-recommended budget, and later endorsed by the Budget and Executive Committees. With one notable exception (a move to defer contracting out of custodial City staff work), every motion to overturn service cuts passed despite opposition by the Mayor and most members of the Executive Committee. As well, the majority of Council elected to use a small portion of the 2011 budget surplus to cover the cost of many of these services, against the wishes of the Mayor.
Councillor Colle led the charge moving a motion to reverse almost $15 million in service cuts to child care, priority centres, ice rinks, pools, community grants, TTC, three homeless shelters, and mechanical leaf collection services. It was a real nail-biter with 23 votes in favour of saving these services and 21 against.
Who voted to save these City services: Councillors Augimeri, Bailao, Carroll, Cho, Colle, Davis, De Baeremaeker, Doucette, Filion, Fletcher, Fragedakis, Layton, Lee, Lindsay Luby, Matlow, McConnell, McMahon, Mihevc, Pasternak, Perks, Perruzza, Vaughan, Wong-Tam
Who voted to cut these City services: Mayor Ford, Councillors Ainslie, Berardinetti, Crawford, Crisanti, Del Grande, Di Giorgio, Ford, Grimes, Holyday, Kelly, Mammoliti, Milczyn, Minnan-Wong, Nunziata, Palacio, Parker, Robinson, Shiner, Stintz, Thompson
Councillor Moeser was unwell and could not attend the meeting.
Some additional motions passed to reverse proposed service cuts to public libraries, the Toronto Environmental Office, the Immigrant Women’s Health Centre, and the Live Green Toronto Community Animators’ program.
Details on what was saved:
Moved by Councillor Colle (passed 23-21; all funds from the 2011 surplus, totalling $14.408 million – net budget):
- School-based child care rent subsidy (saving parents with children in school-based child care centres a hefty hike in fees) ($1.7173 million)
- Child care programming ($0.67 million)
- Free registered programs for children and youth in Priority Centres ($1.3 million)
- Ice rink arena programming ($0.26 million)
- Pools ($0.6835 million)
- Community grants (non-arts grants funded under the Community Investment Partnership Program; arts grants had been saved at Executive Committee but social service and health program grants had not) ($2.2953 million)
- TTC services ($5 million)
- Three homeless shelters ($1.9719 million)
- Mechanical leaf collection ($0.51 million)
Moved by Councillor Cho (passed 22-21; same list as above except Councillor Pasternak had a conflict of interest so was not permitted to vote on the library budget; funds from Tax Stabilization Reserve)
- Drop requirement of Toronto Public Library to cut a full 10% from its budget – A 5.9% cut recommended by the Toronto Public Library board remains, but the Budget Committee decided the board needed to make the full 10% cut, although many City divisions/agencies/boards/commissions did not meet this 10% target. The Budget Committee recommended that the TPL cut another $6.974 million to meet the 10% target. Then the Executive Committee reduced that figure to $3.89 million. Finally City Council voted to require no further cut beyond the 5.9% recommended by the TPL board. ($3.89 million)
Moved by Councillor McMahon (passed 23-21; same list as above except Councillor Robinson voted for the motion and Councillor Pasternak voted against it; funds from TEO’s reserve funds)
- Three positions in the Toronto Environmental Office to implement the City’s sustainable energy strategy ($0.323 million)
Moved by Councillor Berardinetti (passed 44-0; funds from unanticipated assessment growth)
- Restore funding to the Immigrant Women’s Health Centre ($50,000 City contribution, resulting in funding of $200,000 including $150,000 from the Province)
Moved by Councillor Mihevc (passed 23-21; same list as above except Councillors Crawford and Robinson voted for the motion and Councillor Pasternak voted against it; funds from the Infrastructure Partnership Reserve)
- Restore the Live Green Toronto Community Animators’ program, an environmental program (at 50% of its 2011 budget instead of complete elimination of the program as had been proposed)($0.325 million)
By my count, we started with $88 million in service cuts in the staff recommended budget. Budget Committee took $2.8 million in service cuts off the table. Then Executive Committee removed almost $6 million in cuts. Today, City Council reversed nearly $19 million in cuts, leaving us with close to $60 million in service cuts remaining. Safe to say, some of the most troubling cuts have fallen by the wayside. Still most City budgets were cut. I will post an update in the days to come about the remaining cuts.
A property tax increase of 2.5% for single residences and 0.83% for business and multi-residential dwellings passed easily with no debate. (passed 38-5; voting against: Councillors De Baeremaeker, Layton, Perks, Vaughan, Wong-Tam; absent: Councillors Augimeri and Moeser; all others voted in favour)
As well, several motions were passed requiring staff reports related to various budget items, such as the response time impact of deferring hiring of paramedics and firefighters.
See all motions and voting records here
Getting almost $28 million in service cuts off the table was a tough slog. Congratulations to the countless number of residents that raised their voices and put on the pressure to save City services, and to the City Councillors that heard the call and took action to hammer out a plan that would safeguard many vital services.