Next stop for Toronto's 2014 budget: city council.
On Wednesday, the city's executive committee approved a new taxation scheme for the year that would see property taxes on the average Toronto home go up by $56.
All in, the hike amounts to 2.23%. Councillors directly approved a 1.75% city hike, including a levy to fund the Scarborough subway extension. There is also a 0.48% hit mandated by the province in a move to transfer some tax burden from industrial customers to residential. Councillors have no control over that number.
City staff floated a tax increase of as much as 3.21% earlier in the day, but with some tweaking, councillors were able to bring it down.
The committee voted to expect greater revenue from the municipal share of the land transfer tax, the tax the mayor wants rolled back by 5% and eventually eliminated.
Councillor David Shiner doesn't think counting on more cash is risky, "We've never been short", he said after the vote.
Shiner also expects the city will finish the year with a surplus in the $100-million range because some city departments are understaffed. He says if the city somehow comes in short on the land transfer tax take, the surplus can help make up the difference.
Rob Ford was the lone vote against the new spending plan. On Wednesday he repeated his assertion that he can come up with "well over $50-million" in savings.
Ford challenged city manager Joe Pennachetti about the number of managers and directors in a number of city departments. Pennachetti didn't have up-to-date statistics available, but said he would have them when council meets next.
Full council will debate the budget January 29th. At that meeting, Ford plans to introduce a series of motions aimed at finding cost savings. He has suggested that contracting out garbage collection east of Yonge St and some care of Toronto's trees will be on his list. Ford has also hinted at a move to collect outstanding fines from the court system and libraries and staff cuts in a number of city departments. Ford says the changes would have little or no impact on service.