This year the City budget saw a dizzying series of ups and downs, and it was easy to lose track of where things stood. Social Planning Toronto members have told us that City Budgets have a big impact on them, but they don’t have the time or resources to effectively track the ebb and flow of policy decisions. That’s why we work to make the City’s budget more transparent and the process more engaging.
Here is our simple summary of the 2017 budget. (Of course for real budget wonks, the full analysis can be found on our City Budget Watch site.)
The 2017 Budget began with the alarming assumption that the City should cut 2.6% across the board from the programs and services we all rely on. Thanks to an overwhelming amount of community input, and work from sector partners—we were able to ensure that many of the most damaging cuts were reversed. Here’s what we’ve accomplished together:
- 300 new child care subsidies, and the reversal of proposed cuts to childcare grants
- Expanded Student Nutrition programs at 48 new schools
- Ending a proposed cut to community grants, and instead getting an increase to cover inflation
- Reversing over $70 million in proposed cuts to homeless services, community centers and recreation programs
- Opening two youth hub programs and funding for youth hub programming for all sites, and
- Added $37.5 million in base operating funding to the TCHC budget.
While our collective work has helped stop the worst of the cuts to key services and programs, this budget still falls short of our vision to build a fairer, more inclusive city. The budget process resulted in cuts to programs and hikes to fees and fares:
- A 10 cent fare increase for all TTC fares, except cash fares. This means adult Metropass users will pay an extra $57 a year, an increase at almost double the rate of inflation.
- 111 recreation staff positions were cut, while fees on many recreation programs were hiked 12%
- There were over $1.3 million in cuts to staffing for long-term care, and
- In the final hour, strangely, somehow $2 million was found to preserve street sweeping, despite a refusal to reverse a remaining $1 million cut to homeless services.
The City’s budget still has a long way to go to really reflect the needs of all of our communities. Especially since a poll released shortly before the final budget revealed that the majority of Toronto’s residents support investments in Transit, housing and services we can rely on, even if it means raising taxes to pay for it.
We look forward to a 2018 budget that focuses on defining what kind of city we want to build, and then looking at what it cost to reach that goal, and how we can pay for it in a way that is fair for all of Toronto.