"We need the money".
That's Toronto city staff's explanation for recommending against a reduction to the municipal land transfer tax.
At a meeting of the budget committee Wednesday, staff called the tax "an important and significant revenue stream" and the city needs "every penny".
Toronto expects to pull in $335-million from its land transfer tax in 2014. A 5% cut would cost the city about $17-million.
While councillors worried about how the city could re-coup lost revenue and the potential harm it might do to programs and services, the mayor stressed that the city did just fine before the tax was introduced in 2008.
"We didn't have that 330 million dollar cushion. But we survived, we delivered the services...That's quite a bit of gravy if you ask me", Ford told the budget committee.
Councillor Paula Fletcher admitted council has failed to communicate what the city does with the profits.
"There's been this notion somehow, that the land transfer tax is a gravy tax. That it's for frills, that it's for throwing out the window", said Fletcher. But she thinks Torontonians ought to know "that's paying for that stop sign that you wanted, that's paying for the lighting upgrade that you wanted, that's paying for your park improvements".
Councillor Doug Ford believes that council is operating under a sense of entitlement. Rob Ford says councillors seem to be putting themselves first, "and that the revenue is more important in their pockets, how they're gonna spend it, instead of the taxpayers spending it".
Toronto's executive committee picks up debate on the city budget January 22nd. It will be on the agenda of city council at their meeting starting January 29th.
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