Budget Review: Police Demand More, Housing Goes Underfunded

On January 16–18, the City of Toronto’s Budget Committee met to review the 2024 staff-prepared City budget, taking a closer look at the individual budgets of each City agency, division, and accountability office. Here are our highlights from three key areas of the budget review, details about briefing note requests, and a reminder about what’s up next.

Key themes from the Budget Committee review include:

  • Police argue for bigger budget increase
  • Underfunding of housing and homelessness services amidst a growing homelessness crisis and skyrocketing rents
  • City not on track to meet its net zero targets by 2040 


Police Argue for Bigger Budget Increase

The Toronto Police Service (TPS) budget has been a point of great contention, debate, and confusion within the City’s 2024 budget process. Let’s get a clearer picture of the police budget.

Key Points on the Police Budget (further details below)

  • TPS staff have described the City staff-prepared budget as a cut to the police budget, which has led to some confusion. The City staff-prepared budget includes an increase to the police budget. 
  • The City of Toronto staff-prepared budget includes an increase of $25 million in the police budget from property tax revenues. It does not include a cut to the police budget. 
  • The TPS Board wanted the police to receive a larger increase. The Board-approved budget included a $37.6 million increase from property tax revenues, including a $20 million increase for operations and a $17.6 million increase from COVID-19–related expenses. 
  • Mayor Chow will release her budget on February 1. Toronto City Council will debate and vote on amendments to the Mayor’s budget on February 14. Council makes the final budget decision on property taxes.
  • However, if the TPS Board doesn’t think the TPS can provide “adequate and effective policing” in Toronto with the budget Council approves, the Board can take the issue to the province under the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act. 

2024 TPS Budget Submission Approved by the TPS Board

At its December 19 meeting, the TPS Board passed the 2024 TPS budget submission, voting in favour of a budget of $1.3615 billion for the police service (referred to as gross expenditures in the table below). A total of $1.1865 billion of this budget comes from property tax revenues (referred to as net expenditures in the table below). 

The Board-approved TPS budget submission included an additional $20 million from property tax revenues, or a 1.7% increase, compared to the 2023 TPS budget. However, the proposed increase in funding from property tax revenues is actually larger than this due to COVID-19–related expenses. 

A City budget note explains: “The total increase in property tax funding would be $37.6 million net or 3.3% increase over the 2023 budget when excluding COVID-19 related financial impacts of $17.6 million that were not supported by the property tax base in 2023.” 

To clarify, the $37.6 million in additional funding from property tax revenue in the 2024 City budget includes $20 million for operations and $17.6 million in COVID-19–related expenses. The City no longer anticipates COVID-19 relief funding from the provincial or federal government. So, it’s incorporating these COVID-19–related expenses into the base budget for the TPS using property tax revenues. (This is the City’s approach for all agency and divisional budgets.)

2024 TPS Budget in the City of Toronto Staff-Prepared Budget

On January 10, the City of Toronto launched its 2024 budget. The City staff-prepared budget included an increase of $25 million or a 2.2% increase from property tax revenues for the TPS, rather than the $37.6 million increase approved by the TPS Board in December. That’s a difference of $12.6 million, representing 0.9% of the TPS overall budget. If this budget remains as is, the TPS Board will be responsible for reducing costs by $12.6 million within the Board-approved budget.

To be clear, there’s no proposed cut to the police budget. The City staff-prepared budget includes an increase. It is not as large as the increase endorsed by the TPS Board, but it is an increase.

Source: City of Toronto. 2024 Budget Notes: Toronto Police Service.


But Wait There’s More (Funding for the Police)

The Toronto Police Association will be bargaining for a new collective agreement in 2024. That means wage and benefit increases and a corresponding increase to the TPS budget over and above the $25 million increase. For example, a 1% increase in salary and benefits for the Service amounts to $10 million in additional costs. The City of Toronto has set aside funds that will be transferred to the police budget once a new collective agreement is in place. 

The City does not publicly disclose the amount of funding it sets aside related to collective agreements that will be settled later in the year. The amount that will be transferred to the police will be based on the wage and benefit increases resulting from the bargaining process. We won’t know what the salary and benefit increase will be until the settlement is reached.  

In addition to the $25 million increase, the City of Toronto has also made available $10 million from its Major Special Events Reserve to assist with premium pay costs for officers related to policing major events.

City budget notes also state, “City Finance staff have also worked closely with Police Finance to identify $24.7 million in bridging strategies and one-time funding options that do not directly increase operational capacity, leveraged to reduce or offset 2024 costs and maintain future health of the reserves." This City funding support is over and above the $25 million increase in the police budget from property tax revenues.

City funds are expanding the police budget well beyond the $25 million in increased property tax revenue.

TPS Funding: Who Decides?

Set to launch on February 1, the Mayor’s budget will propose how much funding to provide to each division and agency, including the TPS. The Mayor’s budget could be the same as the City staff-prepared budget, and it could be (and probably will be) different. The Mayor will receive advice from the Budget Committee on Friday and has also received input from the public through pre-budget consultations, telephone town halls, and the deputation process. Toronto City Council will debate and vote on amendments to the Mayor’s budget on February 14. 

While the Mayor proposes a budget, Toronto City Council can change the budget by making and voting on amendments to it. The Mayor may also make recommendations on the property tax rate, but Council votes on it.

Toronto City Council decides on the total amount of funds provided but can’t tell the TPS Board how to use those funds. The TPS Board is responsible for deciding how to allocate the funds within the TPS.

But there’s a twist. Under the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, 2019, municipal police boards in Ontario may challenge the funding decision of their local city council if they believe the funding amount is insufficient to “provide adequate and effective policing in the municipality.” Under the act, the police board and municipality can jointly apply to the Arbitration and Adjudication Commission Chair to try to resolve the issue through a conciliation officer, or the police board can give notice to the municipality to begin an arbitration process to resolve the issue.   

At the January 18 Budget Committee meeting, in response to a question from the Budget Committee Chair, TPS Board Executive Director Dr. Dubi Kanengisser appeared to make a reference to this option, stating: 

The [TPS] Board’s responsibility is to ensure adequate and effective policing. If the Board is not convinced that with the amount suggested, that can be achieved, then the Board will have to consider other options it has, including going to the province to request additional funds be required from the City. [italics ours]

Would the Board take this extreme step over a $12.6 million difference — just 0.9% of the TPS budget? Time will tell.

Learn more:


Budget Committee Review of TPS Budget

On January 18, Toronto Police Chief Demkiw and senior staff with the TPS and TPS Board appeared before the Budget Committee as part of the committee’s budget review process. The meeting was marked by an atmosphere of tension, unusual for the budget review process. The Police Chief and senior TPS staff argued that the City staff-prepared budget (with its $25 million increase from property tax revenues) would result in a risk to public safety and stated their support for the TPS Board-approved budget (which includes a $37.6 million increase from property tax revenues). 

TPS and the Toronto Police Association have launched social media campaigns to garner public support for the police budget. Lobbying efforts using official TPS social media accounts raise questions about the misuse/waste of public funds to the TPS, a publicly funded City agency.   

No doubt, other City divisions and agencies wish they had to find some way to manage an additional $25 million in funding. Count on the barometer on this issue to continue to rise in the lead-up to the Council budget vote on February 14. 

UPDATE! The City of Toronto has released two new briefing notes on the TPS budget. As stated in Briefing Note 17:

  • "The 2024 Operating Budget reflects an increase above 2023 funding levels;
  • $12.6 million reflects the difference between the increase approved by the Police Board and the increase reflected in the staff-prepared budget; and
  • The staff prepared budget includes $59.7 million in added budget actions (excluding the funding provision for collective bargaining units in 2024) to offset added pressures in the 2024 Police Budget, equivalent to an 5.2% (plus) increase in funding." 

Learn more:


Underfunding of Housing and Homelessness Services Amidst A Growing Homelessness Crisis and Skyrocketing Rents

The budget review highlighted the inadequate level of funding — despite new investment — in this year’s budget for affordable housing, tenant support, emergency shelter, eviction prevention, and homeless services amidst a crisis of growing homelessness and skyrocketing rents. These programs and services are critical to community safety and wellbeing but have not garnered nearly the level of urgency that has accompanied the police budget. 

Budget discussions also underscored the critical importance of the proposed property tax increase to fund important housing and homeless support services. Publicly, there is great debate about the property tax increase, as well as the police budget. We are deeply concerned that affordable housing programs, tenant supports, eviction prevention, emergency shelters, homeless support services, and other critical programs will be at risk if City Council votes against the proposed property tax increase or if it decides to reallocate funds from critical programs to give the police an even bigger budget increase.  

During the budget review, Councillor Bravo asked General Manager Gord Tanner with Toronto Shelter & Support Services which services would be at risk if Council did not support the property tax increase to raise much-needed revenue. Mr. Tanner replied:

The shelter system provides essential services for vulnerable people in the city. We’d see many more people on the street. We’d see many more people on our transit system, in hospitals, emergency rooms, and elsewhere. They would not be connected to the essential services that are provided in our shelter system. It would be a very challenging situation. [Without funding,] things like street outreach services, day time drop-in services, 24-hour respite programs, our winter program, a whole range of basic human essential services would be at risk.

It is essential that Council support the proposed property tax increase to fund these critical and lifesaving services and, at the very least, ensure no cuts to the proposed budget. We know these services are not sufficiently resourced and require additional funding beyond the new and enhanced services in this budget. While expanding services, the proposed budget still leaves hundreds of unhoused people to the streets, without adequate access to even a shelter bed, much less housing.

Further to this issue, the federal government must meet its responsibilities to fund the shelter and support needs of refugees and asylum seekers. The City has assumed $250 million in revenue will be provided by the federal government for these services. However, the federal government has yet to commit these funds. Help put the pressure on the feds to make good on their obligations by signing the Progress Toronto petition now.

The Housing Secretariat budget review revealed many important affordable and supportive housing projects underway in this budget, but also showed inadequate funding levels to meet affordable housing targets. Compounding these issues, the loss of revenue from development charges resulting from the Ontario government’s Bill 23 is having a significant impact on the City’s affordable housing plans. The provincial government promised to "make the City whole," with no lost revenue from Bill 23. However, before reimbursing the City for the impact of Bill 23, the Province required a third-party audit of the City’s financial books. During the budget review, we learned that the Province cancelled the audit in December, but not why. The City’s Chief Financial Officer reported that the City is now engaging directly with the Province to move forward its commitment to "make the City whole." It is essential that the Province deliver on that promise without delay. 

Take action!

  • Ask your City Councillor to support the proposed property tax increase and invest more in vital and lifesaving services to support our most vulnerable neighbours! Call for no increase to the police budget! Find out who your City Councillor is and how to contact them here or by calling 311.
  • Sign the Progress Toronto Petition: Tell Parliament to Fund Shelter Space for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Learn more:

  • SPT Executive Director Jin Huh’s deputation to the Budget Committee on housing, homelessness, poverty, property taxes, and the police budget
  • Check out Melissa Goldstein’s (housing researcher and advocate) presentation and speaking notes on affordable housing, tenant supports, and eviction prevention.
  • Watch Diana Chan McNally’s (All Saints Church-Community Centre) presentation on emergency shelter system, housing workers, housing help, supports for people who are homeless, and encampments.

City Not on Track to Meet Its Net Zero Targets by 2040

“Are you on track to meet your net zero targets by 2040?” Over the three-day budget review, Councillor Saxe asked the question of most City divisions and agencies. Under the Council-adopted TransformTO Net Zero Strategy, the City of Toronto has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the year 2040 in response to the climate emergency. 

What is net zero?

Basically, net zero means zero. Net zero emissions is achieved when we stop emitting GHGs from how we live, work, and travel. The goal is to get emissions as close to zero as possible, with any remaining human driven emissions balanced by an equivalent amount of carbon removals. Carbon removals from the atmosphere can be achieved by restoring natural lands and soils, or through direct air capture and storage technologies.

For the City, net zero will be achieved by decarbonizing rapidly and thereby reducing GHG emissions from how people move around, how residents operate buildings, how goods are produced and manufactured, and how people consume materials and dispose of waste. (City of Toronto, 2021)


By our count, only one division reported being on track to meet the target. And the winner is … the Municipal Licensing & Standards division, which is putting funds aside for the purchase of electric vehicles. Several City divisions and agencies cited a lack of resources and capital funds, and investment required from federal and provincial governments to meet the City’s net zero emissions goal. 

Take action!

Learn more:

Budget Briefing Notes

At the conclusion of its January 18 meeting, the Budget Committee voted on briefing note requests. Briefing notes are prepared by City staff to provide additional information about specific programs, services, and budget issues to help inform the budget process. When they are finished, you’ll find them hereUPDATE! The briefing notes are now available.

City staff will produce the following briefing notes:

Social Development, Finance and Administration

Request the Executive Director of Social Development, Finance and Administration to prepare a briefing note which outlines the year-by-year expenditure of the Poverty Reduction Strategy, including new and enhanced programs for the previous five years.

Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Request the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer to provide a briefing note on the money that the City of Toronto spends on services that are extensions of Provincial and Federal responsibilities and how they have shifted with the New Deal.

Children's Services

Request the General Manager, Children’s Service, to provide a briefing note on the following:

  1. The total cost of the Ontario Early Years program;
  2. Who pays to administer the Ontario Early Years program;
  3. The number of Ontario Early Years sites in Toronto; and
  4. What has been the change in investment over time as the population grows.

Request the General Manager, Children’s Services, to provide a briefing note to share detailed information on where City-operated and City-subsidized child care centers currently exist and to further outline what the City’s current plan is to grow childcare spaces in areas that are underserved.

City Clerk's Office

Request the City Clerk to provide a briefing note on the costs associated with printing agendas and public background attachments for meetings of City Council, Committees that Report to Council, and Community Councils.

Economic Development and Culture 

Request the General Manager, Economic Development and Culture to provide a briefing note on:

  1. the investments included for small businesses in the 2024 budget, including CafeTO, Mainstreet Recovery and Rebuild Initiative, Digital Main Street and Toronto Small Business Enterprise Centre services, the total number of businesses served by each, and the estimated cost per business for each program; and
  2. the estimated return of investment for the City of Toronto's total business support in terms of municipal, provincial, and federal tax revenues.

Environment and Climate

Request the Executive Director, Environment and Climate to prepare a briefing note that sets out the cost and likely impact of the top three fast, cheap, and transformative TransformTO initiatives the City could take in 2024 to help achieve the City’s Net Zero target.

Municipal Licensing and Standards

Request the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to prepare a briefing note on the cost, and associated fee increase for landlords, of one (1) RentSafeTO inspector.

Request the Executive Director, Housing Secretariat, and the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards, to provide a briefing note with detailed information on the City’s plan to grow and develop the RentSafeTO, Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition Programs (MURA), and Community Land Trusts and to further share with the Budget Committee its plans to increase service-related support for tenants who are evicted through the rental housing demolition process.

Request the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to provide a briefing note on the change in short-term rental registration fees on providers necessary for the program to operate on a cost-recovery basis.

Request the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to provide a briefing note on costs and travel times for the North York by-law enforcement team to travel from their operational bases in other parts of the city to respond to investigations and assignments in North York.

Parks, Forestry and Recreation

Request the General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation, in collaboration with the Executive Director Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, to provide a briefing note on the Capital Plan for implementation of the Ravine Strategy and the Meadoway, including the City of Toronto, Provincial Government and Federal Government funding for:

  1. Ravine Strategy implementation to date (2020–2023);
  2. The next five years (2024–2029); and
  3. The following five years (2030–2034).

Request the General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation to provide a briefing note on proposed indoor and outdoor recreational capital investments for ice skating, cricket, and winterized washrooms, including the readiness to advance these projects in the Capital Plan if additional funds were available.

Social Development, Finance and Administration

Request the Executive Director, Social Development, Finance and Administration to prepare a briefing note on the Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs in Toronto, including the annual Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) since the program’s inception and the cost to return to a full complement.

Transit Expansion Office

Request the Executive Director, Transit Expansion Office to provide a briefing note on the number of Full-time Equivalents (FTEs), along with vacancies, within the Transit Expansion Office, allocated to each transit project.

Toronto Police Service

Request the Toronto Police Services to prepare a briefing note on:

  1. The annual operating cost of the Mounted Unit, including their role in crowd control and assisting in missing person searches;
  2. The annual operating cost to produce the “24 Shades of Blue” podcast; and
  3. The annual operating cost of communications consulting.

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

Request the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to provide a briefing note on the Capital Plan investments needed for the Scarborough Waterfront Project, including any funds secured to date from the Municipal, Provincial, and Federal governments with a priority emphasis on advancing required maintenance and shovel-ready (Environmental Assessment approved and detailed-design completed) portions of the project.

Toronto Transit Commission

Request the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission, to provide a briefing note on estimated costs of a busway, on the former SRT route including:  

  1. A summary of progress on busway design work completed to date; and
  2. Estimated costs of opportunities to begin decommissioning and construction work.


Following the budget review, the Budget Committee split into two subcommittees to hear from about 270 residents and organizations at the budget deputations/public hearings held on January 22 and 23. Watch for our highlights from the public hearings.

Next up: Budget Committee meets on Friday, January 26, for its wrap-up session, where it will receive City staff reports and briefing notes and vote on motions providing advice and recommendations for the Mayor’s budget, set to be released on February 1.

Just before you go … Take Action for a Better TTC!

Many thanks to Matt Elliott for sharing information with us on the Police Services Act.

Photo by Felix MacLeod on Unsplash

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