No “major” service cuts announced
However, some councillors not keen on those that did occur
(Written for Town Crier Jan. 10)
Mayor Rob Ford had announced the introduction of the 2011 Respect For Taxpayers budget by repeating his promises of zero property tax increases and no major service cuts.
“This budget follows one of the largest consultation processes in Canadian politics. It was called the Toronto municipal election,” said Ford, referring to the 10 month election campaign. “(Voters) told us very clearly they want us to stop the waste and reduce city expenses.”
Monday, Jan. 10 was the first day of an expedited process that will see the 2011 budget approved by the end of February rather than early April.
Ford had asked all departments to reduce their budgets by five percent but a preliminary look shows this request had mixed results. Municipal Licensing and Services requested an additional 12 percent while Employment and Social Services cut its budget by 26 percent.
“Most city departments and agencies achieved their targets,” Ford said at a press conference. “Unfortunately a few of the city’s arms length agencies choose not to meet their objectives. Their managers and boards decided their interests were more important than the taxpayers.”
For example, the mayor said he planned to meet with the Police Chief Bill Blair this afternoon to review the request for a three percent hike that will bring the police’s operating budget to $914.8 million.
Bed bugs, books, buses
Ward 30 Councillor Paula Fletcher said that she’s concerned over funding for bedbugs, books and buses in this budget.
The Toronto Library Board originally planned to close the Urban Affairs branch at 55 John St. and move its materials to the Toronto Reference Library but on Jan. 6 the Library Board voted against the closure and is asking the city for additional money to maintain the status quo.
Ford also unveiled the TTC’s plans for a 10 cent fare hike and service reductions on 48 bus routes, which would be offset by increased service on several unnamed routes.
However, Fletcher is not impressed.
“How many of these are employment-related (bus) routes are where people have no other way to get to and from their job?” she asked.
“It will be council that finally determines this budget. Council that decides on a 10 cent fare increase, council that cuts 48 (bus) routes, council that eliminates a (library) branch and council that might decide if we want to tackle bed bugs n the City of Toronto.”
Ford promised no major service cuts, but the preliminary budget highlighted some, as he sees them, minor cuts including closing the Urban Affairs library, reducing the tenant defence fund, $100,000 less for international missions, $139,000 less for the Our Toronto publication.
Other service reductions will come to light in the following weeks as the $10.63 billion operating and $2.4 billion capital budgets are unveiled and scrutinized in detail.
The city’s capital budget includes many improvements including: Four new ambulance stations such including one on Pape Ave; renovations to the North York Central Library; five additional child care centres including in Thorncliffe Park; expanding the Leaside Memorial Gardens Arena; continuing to restore Casa Loma.
On Jan. 19-20 there will be four community consultation sessions held in civic centres in East York, North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke where people can make deputations to a budget sub-committee.
City council will vote on the 2011 budget the week of Feb. 23-28.