How should city use the savings?
What’s your wish list: rebates or spend on services?
(Written Oct. 6 for Town Crier. Oct. 26 UPDATE.)
You remember the 39-day strike this summer? At the time I wrote this, city figures stated the government saved $33.1 million during the labour unrest.
So what should be done with this money?
The main three options for the city are to issue rebate cheques to residents, use it for specific programs or fold the windfall into general revenues. My preference is to use some of the money to bring down a planned garbage rate hike and if that’s not possible then instead put the millions towards balancing the 2010 budget. But I’d want to know how the money was specifically spent.Rebates
I understand that economically times are tough for many residents. So the idea of getting a cheque from the city is attractive and with an election next year some politicians are pushing for it.
Councillor Gloria Lindsay-Luby recommended Oct. 5 that the Executive Committee endorse $53 rebates per single family residential property.
“I think it’s important for people to see this (rebate) for themselves on their 2010 tax bill,” said Lindsay-Luby.
Mayor David Miller moved the motion on Lindsay-Luby’s behalf even though he did not agree with it. When it came to a vote the motion was defeated.
Some councillors said it was inequitable to issue rebates to property owners and not tenants.
Half of Torontonians are tenants. If the rebate was applied to the 500,000 single family homes as well as 500,000 multi-residential properties, it would equal about $20–22 per property, according to city staff. Even then, it would still be up to owners of multi-residential properties to share the rebate with tenants.
My problem with the rebate is that money can achieve a lot more collectively as a lump sum of $33,168,900 then it can for individuals in the form of $53 or $20 cheques.
Spend it on garbage services
There is a proposed two percent garbage fee hike coming to the Budget Committee on Oct.19. I think it’s bad timing after a garbage strike to recommend raising the annual cost of garbage service. The proposed increase would be an extra $4–8 annually per bin depending on the size.
I would like to see some of the strike savings used for garbage to avoid a rate hike.
It seems I am not the only one who thinks part of the $33.1 million should be spent on garbage programs.
York West Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti said during the Executive Committee debate, “Nobody is disputing we need to return the money that is rightfully our taxpayers. The only dispute is how to do it.”
His motion was to use some of the cash to reduce a proposed garbage hike was defeated.
But I am starting to waiver on allocating some of the cash to garbage and diversion programs because none of the strike savings actually came from solid waste management. In fact, an additional $4.1 million was spent during the strike on garbage then would have been otherwise.
Savings for general revenue
Councillor Joe Pantalone argues when the city has extra cash it should be spent on the programs.
“The whole purpose of municipal government is to provide services,” he said.
But budget chief Shelley Carroll said the city faces its toughest budget in a decade and needs that money to balance its books in 2010.
“If you give this money away, that (balanced budget) is not going to happen,” said Carroll.
Miller told the media that this $33 million the city saved is best applied to next year’s budget.
He said welfare and other costs to the city are on the rise.
“Next year’s budget will be difficult. What we do know is the savings, the surplus that has come from the strike will be applied to be returned to property payers owners next year,” Miller said.