Strong, vocal and ongoing community advocacy has been instrumental in delivering a better budget for Torontonians. Today, February 1, Mayor Chow released her much-anticipated budget from the Scarborough Centre subway station, with good news for Scarborough and all Toronto residents. Following the advice of residents, community groups and advocates, the Mayor’s budget adds millions in funding to support and expand critical services, recommends slightly lower property tax increases for residential and multi-residential properties than those proposed in the City staff-prepared budget, and balances the books while safeguarding and increasing services.
What's the Difference Between the City Staff-Prepared Budget and the Mayor's Budget?
The Mayor’s budget:
- adds $8.979 million in funding for critical services, including drop-in centres, eviction prevention (EPIC), tenant support, rent bank, apartment building standards enforcement (RentSafeTO), community services provided by nonprofit organizations (CPIP), youth programs and youth hubs, community recreation, repair and beautification of public spaces, and public engagement
- commits an additional $100 million over 3 years, including $41 million this year, to the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition program (MURA) to acquire and preserve affordable housing
- allocates $67.9 million to speed up the development of the Scarborough Busway
- increases resources to improve outdoor recreation infrastructure and park amenities ($20 million added over next two years) and repair local roads ($30 million added over next two years)
- maintains the $152.3 million in funding for new and enhanced services proposed in the City staff-prepared budget - including funds to expand shelter services, affordable housing, long-term care, public libraries, transit services, climate action, paramedic and fire services, and community crisis response
- maintains the Toronto Police Service budget increase as proposed in the City staff-prepared budget ($59.7 million in added budget support, not counting millions more for collective bargaining)
- supports an 8% property tax increase and a 1.5% increase to the City Building Fund for residential properties, for a total increase of 9.5% - down from the 10.5% increase proposed in the City staff-prepared budget
- supports a 3.5% increase for multi-residential properties (combined property tax and City Building Fund increase), in order to protect tenants from “above the guideline” (AGI) rent increases - a lower increase than proposed in the City staff-prepared budget
The Mayor has achieved a balanced budget by drawing on funds from assessment growth (i.e. property tax revenue from new development and re-developments), the Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund, a one-time CreateTO dividend, and an increase in the RentSafeTO registration fee paid by landlords - revenues from fees used specifically for RentSafeTO. MURA is supported by federal funding from the Housing Accelerator Fund, provincial funding from the Building Faster Fund, and a one-time CreateTO dividend. A reallocation of TTC capital funds supports the Scarborough Busway development, and savings from the initial upload of the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway are used to improve outdoor recreation infrastructure, park amenities, and local roads.
The budget does not yet incorporate the new federal funding announced yesterday for shelter and support services for refugees and asylum seekers. The City of Toronto is expecting news shortly on its share of the funds announced. Additional federal funds for police related to auto theft are also expected and not yet included in the police budget.
Mayor's Budget Increases Investment in Critical Services
The Mayor’s budget includes increased funding for programs and services in several areas, over and above the new and enhanced services included in the City staff-prepared budget. Drawing from the Mayor’s budget document, here’s a breakdown of the additional investment.
Toronto Shelter and Support Services
Municipal Licensing and Standards
Social Development, Finance and Administration
Note: The Mayor’s budget provides a full inflationary increase of 4.2% for nonprofit organizations delivering community services through the Community Partnership Investment Program (CPIP) and an additional $600,000 to expand CPIP to support new and enhanced community services provided by nonprofits.
Toronto Transit Commission
Toronto Public Library
Parks, Forestry and Recreation
City Manager’s Office
Final Votes at Council
While the Mayor’s budget builds on the expansion of programs and services included in the staff-prepared budget and turns the corner on austerity approaches, the work has just begun to create a better city after years of decline. More funding is required to ensure emergency shelter for all those who require it (and ultimately, an affordable home), take action on the climate emergency, and improve public transit services. That’s the short list.
The Mayor’s budget includes $8 million in unallocated funds. At its February 14 meeting, Council will decide how to use these funds. Council members could vote to reinstate windrow clearing (still on the chopping block), or provide more funding to community, shelter and support services, public transit, climate action or any other important service. They could also add to the significant increase the police are already receiving.
City Council can make other changes to the Mayor’s budget. It can vote to move money between City services and increase funding for services, as long as it has a funding source to pay for it. Council can also vote to change the property tax rates. If members vote to reduce the proposed increase to property taxes, they will also have to decide how to make up the lost revenue, including which services to cut. Much rides on Council’s decisions.
In response to concerted community advocacy, the Mayor’s budget prioritizes building a better, more equitable and livable city, and most notably, a more caring city. The Mayor is clearly listening to the thousands of residents and advocates who engaged in the budget process. Her announcement this morning in Scarborough, centred around getting the city “back on track” - as she stood close to where the Scarborough RT was derailed - is welcome and has been a long time coming. It’s an important start to addressing the many crises and challenges impacting Toronto residents and the city’s long decline. Now, it’s up to the members of Council to decide if they will support a budget that creates a more caring, equitable and livable city. Let’s continue to advocate for every member of Council to have a heart for City and community services on February 14.