Joe Pantalone made two big announcements this morning:
First, Pantalone said he won’t drop out of the race for the city’s top job. And second, he said he can deliver a balanced budget in 2011.
“This budget has a number of components in it,” he said. “First of all it has no service cuts. It does not call for any additional money from the provincial government for 2011 because we understand the province and feds have financial issues as well.
“It is a city building-budget which is fiscally responsible,” he claimed.
Pantalone said the city’s facing a $503 million gap to balance next year’s budget. That pressure grows to $541 due to $22 million in campaign promises plus the $16 million revenue loss of phasing out the vehicle registration tax in 2011 through 2014 plus a four-year tax freeze for seniors earning less than $50,000 living in their own home.
But Pantalone revealed this morning that he’d close the $541 million hole and balance the budget with his plan.
He says he’d balance the budget using the 2009 budget surplus of $76 million, a $180 million 2010 surplus, $35 million in property assessment growth, $85 million in service efficiencies, reductions in the capital budget by $35 million, plus $75 million in revenue from the selling of properties managed by city-agency Build Toronto.
That would leave a $55 million hole. Pantalone would close that gap with an overall tax increase of 1.65 percent that translates into 2.5 percent hike for residents and .833 percent for non-residential properties.
Pantalone calls for job cuts but a job slow down. This means departments that are allowed to hire a maximum number of employees would have a second look from the city before being allowed to full all vacant positions.
He claims city budget chief Shelley Carroll has praised his budget plan.
With 11 days left until the Oct. 25 vote Pantalone said this equals 11 lifetimes in politics.
“I believe there will be a few more twists and turns and people will be able to focus on, do we want to take a risk, a chance with the Ford strategy to cut $1.47 billion?” asked Pantalone. “Or do they want to take a Smitherman who has no political compass who at one time was a ‘big L Liberal’. Then he figured he’d rather be a mini-Rob Ford with tax freezes and cutting 4,000 jobs. In the middle of a recession. Wow that will make better, isn’t it?”
Pantalone doesn’t plan to step aside despite suggestions he do so. With last night’s departure of Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson’s announcement that she is now supporting Smitherman, only Ford, Pantalone and Smitherman remain among the major candidates.
“We are left with three major candidates after last night’s (Rossi) announcement. But we have two visions,” said Pantalone. “One vision which is a city-building vision … and another vision shared by my two major opponents (Ford and Smitherman) that cuts services to those who need it the most.
“I can’t tell you how much people tell me. ‘thank God your there Joe because we fear for our city with those two.’ ”