UPDATE: City budget showdown begins with shouting match

Councillors debate 2014 tax increase

It took about 45 minutes for one of the year's most important meetings of Toronto City Council to devolve into a shouting match on Wednesday morning.

The Speaker was forced to call a 5-minute break after Mayor Rob Ford tried to interrupt a councillor whose turn it was to speak.

At one point, Ford bellowed from his chair for city councillor Michael Thompson to 'sit down,' and 'shut up' while it was Scarborough East Councillor Ron Moeser's turn to address the floor.

The scene was just a raucous up above in the gallery, as security guards showed a group of anti-poverty demonstrators to the door.

Members of the Ontario Coalition Againast Poverty were there to voice concerns over possible cuts to affordable housing programs.

It was an opening hour that set the tone for what's expected to be at least 2 days of emotional debate, as councillors begin the process of approving Toronto's $9.6 billion city budget for 2014.

The Mayor's Executive Committee has recommended a property tax increase of 1.75% (including the hike to pay for the Scarborough subway extension).

Add in current value assessment, a mandatory provincial requirement relating to a shift in tax policy, and the increase comes in at 2.23%.

If approved, it would see the average homeowner with a home worth just under $500,000 pay about $56 more in taxes this year compared to 2013.

The Executive Committee voted to increase projected revenue from the land transfer tax in 2014 to make the budget numbers work, which Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly says creates an unbalanced budget (about $8 million short). The committee increased the land transfer tax projection above what staff had pencilled in.

Kelly would like to see the tax increase come in at 1.73% and the 0.5% subway levy added on to come to 2.23%. When the 0.48% current value assessment is added it would mean an extra $68 to the tax bill of the average homeowner

City staff had recommended a budget that saw taxes rise by 3.21% and increase of about $81 dollars on the average tax bill. That included putting money away in a weather reserve and money to help repair the tree canopy.

Councillor David Shiner is suggesting there be no budget increase, saying that because of vacant staff positions, people are paying more for less service and the city can handle a zero percent budget.

There could be another debate over the subway extension.

Councillor Josh Matlow is recommending the tax hike to pay for the Scarborough subway be eliminated and early funding for the project put off until the 2015 budget process.

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  1. franklin posted on 01/28/2014 10:23 PM
    City council should agree to forego the subway increase if and when it is reversed as many feel it will be. We don't need this subway as we can have an above-ground subway on the old RT line with 7 stations, that is nowhere near traffic. However, planned traffic-bound LRTs set for Sheppard and Finch need to be rapid busing now and eventually subways.

    Toronto also needs a southern-bound DRL from far north of the city, all the way to Union Station and then north on the western leg of the Go line. Using the high side of the DVP would be ideal in my view.
    1. Jim posted on 01/29/2014 07:52 AM
      @franklin Narrow minded people like you are what's wrong with Toronto. I did a little digging and found out that a similar debate took place when subways were first built in Toronto. Now where would Toronto be if that city government had taken the short term approach you are advocating? Are subways more expensive to build? Yes, significantly. Do they outlast LRT's, etc.? Again yes. On average is the maintenance cost lower for a subway? Yes.

      So let's do the smart thing and do it once instead of having to do the cheap thing twice.
  2. Frankie posted on 01/29/2014 07:30 AM
    If we had a responsible, competent gov't at Queen's Park they'd legislate 1 councillor per Toronto riding vs the current 2. That would get rid of significant waste.

    Want to save money at the TTC. Make their maintenance staff work at private sector levels vs the 25-30% level they work at now. Imagine how much money could be saved if they actually worked efficiently; you could get rid of more than 50% of the staff. Lots of money for subways/LRT then.

    No tax increases needed if councillors cared about the waste.
    1. Palma posted on 01/29/2014 05:47 PM
      @Frankie I am really sure the maintenance staff which get paid the least of all the workers at TTC are the ones that add hundreds of million dollars to the TTC budget
  3. john posted on 01/29/2014 10:40 AM
    thats right ford whip these counselors a new asshole .
    1. Karl Burgin posted on 01/29/2014 11:16 AM
      @john He probably will be whipping some councillors- and it will be a win-win situation for him.

      1.> If Councillors take his recommendations seriously, he will be credited for pushing it forward, and it will show that he still has considerable influence- despite his powers being undemocratically reduced
      2.> If they decide to for-go his list,raise taxes and the councillors do what they want, then he'll emerge in his campaign with two major points:
      a.> See what the Councillors are doing since they took away his powers. So vote Ford back in to send a message to the Council, and vote some of the councillors out who don't want to get with the program
      b.> See, I came up with a plan to find additional funds without raising taxes above the 1.75% bar, but Councillors would rather raise taxes like Miller. So vote Rob Ford back in, and vote some of the councillors out.
      3.> And Norm Kelly will seem like a third wheel...

      Now, whether you could pick Ford's game apart, and find fault- an argument could be made there. But on the surface, the two points I just made will probably be the core of his campaign. And it would probably work. Because most people aren't in forums like these, or listening to radio talk shows, and to arguments picking apart the mayor. The attention span and memory of most people are very short, so the oncoming campaign spring-boarding from this budget carries a serious threat of seeing the mayor being re-elected. The immediate evidence would probably being seen in an Ipsos Reid, or a CFRB survey to take a litmus test of the public sway. All which would probably show Rob Ford numbers remaining strong or increase.
      Mark my words, and see for yourselves in the upcoming weeks.
  4. john posted on 01/29/2014 11:07 AM
    thats right Robby give m hell .
    1. DW posted on 01/29/2014 04:01 PM
      @john He did give em hell. In his bigoted drunken rant at the Steak Queen..........the epicentre of Ford Nation
  5. Manuel posted on 01/29/2014 11:40 AM
    just listening to the staff CEO. he says you think we have budget problems this year just wait until the next couple of years. some big cuts or less projects have to take place or higher taxes.
    Sorry RoFo. your subway don't think it's arriving on time. probably not at all
  6. Enough Already posted on 01/29/2014 12:17 PM
    Ford's "savings plan" is simply the preamble to another temper tantrum at Council. $19 million in Pan-Am corporate sponsorships? Proposed from the guy who assured us the private sector will pay for subways and then didn't even secure a dime from his beloved private sector. Too bad there isn't a kids table at City Council!

    Any bets on when Ford will "storm out of the meeting"?
    1. Manuel posted on 01/29/2014 12:29 PM
      @Enough Already I'll never take that bet. you will win!
    2. DW posted on 01/29/2014 02:49 PM
      @Enough Already When his stooges tell him to..................just in time for another presser
  7. DW posted on 01/29/2014 02:41 PM
    Time to abolish the amalgamated city brought to you by Duffer Harris, Jim Flaherty and yes Doug Ford Senior.

    Six functioning municipalties with a senior level to oversee the regional services which functioned well from 1953 to 1997.

    Also would prevent someone like the current Mayor from running the whole mess. This we would leave just to the pathetic electorate in Etobicoke...........
    1. Manuel posted on 01/29/2014 02:56 PM
      @DW Amen brother!
    2. dama posted on 01/29/2014 03:40 PM
      @DW and what mess was that? Rob Ford's personal mess is why the councillors voted in favour of higher taxes? You are that pathetic ??
      Less you forget, his power was taken away from him and Norm is in charge and he wants 2.23%

      Also. Rob Ford won was not due to Etobicoke's electorate
      he won from Scarborough's voters..
  8. dama posted on 01/29/2014 03:08 PM
    Infrastructure cost big money, be it road, railway, or subway..
    the sad fact is .. if it is not built now(subway) the debate wil still be here in 15 , 20 years time just like they debated during the late 70s and 80s and nothing was built..

    can imagine the cost of material and labour were lesser then..!!!

    Get this freaking subway built and then add more lines, down the road..
    you cant escape the cost.. one has to pay now or later.. better be now..

    If Toronto wants to be a 1st class city.which at present time is NOT... subway is the way.. . travel to Asia, look at Hong Kong.. Singapore.. Bangkok.. China.. they spent billions building their subways.. Hong Kong with interchanger lines that you dont have to leave the subway station to another lines..

    1. Palma posted on 01/29/2014 05:49 PM
      @dama But not a subway to Sarborough
  9. DrumBum posted on 01/29/2014 04:08 PM
    We have far too many Councillors at City Hall which is a big part of the problem down there for a city our size. Let's play the New York comparison shall we?

    New York has a population of 8.337 million with 51 Councillors.
    Toronto has a population of 2.791 million with 44 Councillors.
    In New York you have 1 Council member for every 163,470 people.
    In Toronto you have 1 Council member for every 63,432 people.
    If Toronto was run as efficiently as NY we'd have 17 Councillors but let's cut them a break cut them in half to 22 and double the size of the wards. We'd save $2,257,376 per year moving forward.
    I didn't see that on the list of ways to save millions?
    1. DW posted on 01/29/2014 04:20 PM
      @DrumBum Yep.....................gun city with a murder rate to match..............rotten city services and school system run by the City ......................most of the subway system built before 1940 and flooded out with the most recent hurricanes

      The Metro system was far better more democratic and more accountable with oversight at the local level and across the region

      ................of course you could just have one councillor in ward, imagine having Giorgio Fundraiser Mammoliti or Dougie Enabler Ford ............essentially no representation.................just a lot of noise

      But give New Yorkers their due, they did knock an expressway and get rid of it for people not suburbanites who have vision of a city that is somewhere to take from and not contribute and something that begins and ends at their driveway
    2. Frankie posted on 01/29/2014 04:54 PM
      @DrumBum Good comparison.

      We could simply use the Federal and Provincial ridings to end up with 22/23 councillors. Ford tried to do that and was shot down as we can't expect these gravy train conductors to vote themselves out of a job.

      If we had a responsible provincial gov't they have the authority to legislate a reduction in councillors.
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