Budget includes some service cuts
And 2012 budget outlook grim: city officials
(Written for Town Crier Feb. 24)
Mayor Ford talks to city hall media Feb. 23 about the budget. Town Crier file photo.
The good news is that city approved its 2011 operating budget today with a tax freeze.
However, the 2012 budget is already shaping up to be one that will involve hikes in TTC fares and property taxes and selling off city assets to fix the projected $774 million hole for next year’s budget.
But that’s a worry for another day.
Mayor Rob Ford was beaming after the passage of the first operating budget of his administration.
“This is a great day for the taxpayers of the city. For the first time in 11 years we passed a zero percent tax increase,” Ford told the media. “We campaigned hard and definitely slowed down the gravy train.”
Ford said not only did he attend the four public meetings on the budget with hundreds of deputations, but personally returns calls from Torontonians regarding their priorities.
“If you talk to the citizens out there, I am sure 99 percent of them are happy at not having to pay higher taxes,” he said.
The city passed the $9.381 billion gross budget with few amendments.
Councillor John Filion that did get one through with a 44-1 vote to increase the Toronto Public Health Budget with one-time provincial funding of $100,000. This money from the provincial Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is earmarked for a communication strategy to encourage HIV and Syphilis screening.
Mayor Ford was the only one to vote against this provincial money.
“Everyone says it’s provincial money. No it’s taxpayers’ money,” Ford explained his vote to the media.
Posted in Toronto News
Tagged 2011, 2012, budget, city, freeze, funding, Gord Perks, HIV, increase, John Filion, Kris Scheuer, Mayor, Mike Del Grande, province, Rob Ford, Syphilis, tax, Toronto, Town Crier, vote, zero
No tax increase in this year’s Toronto budget
(Written for Town Crier Feb. 23)
Mayor Ford is pleased council supported a 2011 property tax freeze. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.
The weather may have warmed up, but inside city hall council voted to freeze taxes on the first day of a four days of budget votes.
Mayor Rob Ford didn’t campaign on a tax freeze but he announced after the election a tax freeze was a priority.
“Taxpayers won’t have to pay a property tax increase this year,” Ford told the media.
After the vote Ford said that taxpayers sent a clear message during the election that they are sick and tried of wasteful spending at city hall.
“We saved $66 million in the first 100 days that’s more than the previous government saved in seven years,” Ford boasted to the assembled media.
The biggest saving came from canceling the vehicle registration tax as of Jan. 1, which gives taxpayers $64 million back, said Ford.
However, canceling the tax means the city will lose $48 million in revenue and it will cost the city/taxpayers $16 million to issue refunds to car owners who paid for the fee in advance.
Posted in Toronto News
Tagged 2011, budget, freeze, Gord Perks, increase, Kris Scheuer, Mayor, Mike Del Grande, Rob Ford, tax, Toronto, Town Crier, zero
Council votes today to scrap unpopular tax
It will cost $64 mil in 2011 in lost revenue, refunds
(Written for Town Crier Dec. 16)
Mayor Rob Ford got votes to kill car tax. Town Crier file photo by Francis Crescia.
Mayor Rob Ford got his first win today as council voted 39-6 to scrap the vehicle registration tax as of Jan. 1.
“It’s a great day for the taxpayers of Toronto,” he said in a media scrum Thursday afternoon. “We just put $64 million back into their pockets and they can do what they want. They can create jobs and stimulate the economy or they can save it.”
“I’m glad we finally got rid of it and I look forward to saving the taxpayers more money in the next four years,” he said. “I just want to bring back respect for taxpayers at city hall.”
It will cost the city $64 million to repeal the tax, $48 million in lost annual revenue plus $12 million for refunds for car owners who paid their 2011 tax in advance. The city doesn’t yet know how it will make up the revenue, but that will be dealt with during the budget process.
Executive Committee approves canceling vehicle tax
It still needs council approval, and could cost city $64 mil
(Written for Town Crier Dec. 10)
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday agrees with canceling the personal vehicle tax.
Mayor Rob Ford is one step closer to fulfilling his campaign promise to cancel the vehicle registration tax.
“The war on the car stops today,” Ford told the media on Dec. 1. “We will eliminate the $60 car registration tax at the first council meeting in December to take effect on Jan. 1, 2011.”
Ford’s hand-picked executive committee voted to kill the tax at its first meeting on Dec. 9, but that decision comes at a cost of $64 million: $48 million in lost revenue and $16 million to issue refunds to people who paid for their 2011 car registration in advance.
City staff also costed out an option to cancel the tax on Sept. 1 which would cost $48 million in lost revenue but not require refunds.
Ford has announced he can forgo this revenue and still produce a flat-lined 2011 budget, with no property tax increases and no major service cuts. City manager Joseph Pennachetti said his staff will try and achieve those goals, but there’s no details at this stage on how that will be achieved.
Posted in Toronto Politics
Tagged cancel, car, councillor, Doug Holyday, Janet Davis, Kris Scheuer, Mayor, millions, Rob Ford, tax, Town Crier, vehicle
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. Continue reading
Posted in Toronto News
Tagged 2010, budget, Budget Committee, city, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, Councillor Gloria Lindsay-Luby, Councillor Joe Pantalone, Councillor Shelley Carroll, Executive Committee, garbage, Kris Scheuer, Mayor David Miller, rebates, Strike, tax, Toronto, Torontonians
Councillor Walker wants proof five cent plastic bag fee reduces use
Grocery chains interim results indicates it has, for me it’s meant no new bags
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Oct. 4 for Town Crier.)
Most Torontonians want to do right by the environment.
The city has a policy aimed at getting us to reduce our use of plastic sopping bags and produce less garbage. And if we don’t follow along, it will cost us more money.
This five-cent plastic bag fee that kicked in June 1.
The city’s aim in this recent bylaw is to reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in littering the streets or sent to landfill.
Midtown councillor Michael Walker is asking how many fewer bags are being used as a result of the nickel charge.
The city manager responded Sept. 30 to Walker’s inquiry. The short answer is we don’t know yet.
The General Manager Geoff Rathbone will be reporting back to the city after May 31 when the policy is a year old. At that time industry will report back to the city on how many fewer plastic bags customers are using.
So far, Metro (which bought Dominion) grocery stores have reported that by June 29 there was already a 70 percent reduction in plastic bags compared to the monthly average.
Supermarket giant Loblaw introduced the bag charge earlier back in January and also reported a 75 percent reduction in plastic bags now that customers were charged.
We shall see if this reduction in plastic bag use was just initial reaction to the nickel charge and if consumers will embrace alternatives such as reusable bags or carts.
According to 2005 audit data by Stewardship Ontario, collectively in Toronto we use 457 million retail plastic shopping bags annually.
That’s 8.8 plastic retail shopping bags, per family weekly. Continue reading
Posted in Environment, garbage
Tagged bag, charge, cloth bags, Environment, fee, five cent, garbage, Geoff Rathbone, Kris Scheuer, Loblaw, Metro grocery, nickel, plastic, recycle, reduce, tax, Town Crier