City budgets mean confusing numbers, words you’ve never heard of and a lot of questions about things that will ultimately affect you and your neighbourhood. Toronto City Council is set to debate their 2017 budget this month. To help you make sense of it, here are five things you should know in a language you might understand.
1. There will be no highway tolls, but Toronto’s getting a share of the gas tax
In late November, Mayor John Tory announced a proposal for tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. The addition of tolls would have brought significant and stable revenue to the city, providing an additional $5.6 billion in incremental capital investment.
In January, the Province announced it would not allow roads tolls to be implemented in Toronto, but instead would double the amount of gas tax revenue given to municipalities. With the swap, Toronto will see an additional $158 million by 2021 or 2022 in the annual budget. According to city manager Peter Wallace, the gas tax will come nowhere close to being a reasonable source of additional funding and leverage for long-term debt repayment. This means the anticipated money that would be designated to “get Toronto moving” will come up short.
2. The shelter system and affordable housing will keep feeling the budget crunch
Toronto shelters will see a drop in staff as a result of the proposed budget. According to the summary of service adjustments, Shelter, Support & Housing Administration will see a “reduction of complement through attrition”, meaning the once someone retires, quits or leaves their job via any avenue, that position will not be filled by any new staff. This proposed changed will ultimately have an effect on services provided by shelters and support services.
Despite this cut, the department actually has a proposed increase of 18.2 per cent in funding.
Toronto Community Housing is saying they will be forced to close 7,500 units between 2018 and 2022, with another fourteen thousand units moving into a critical state if additional funding is not secured and designated from the Province and Federal governments.
3. TTC is spared from budget cuts, but concerns remain
Despite city-wide concerns, the proposed budget has left the Toronto Transit Commission out of their cuts with a 13.2 per cent increase in funding. The TTC still isn’t in great shape, however, as the proposed budget outlines the city using almost 13 million dollars to bridge the gap in funding.
The Scarborough Subway extension also continues to go up in budgeted costs, with the budgeted amount now pegged at 3.4 billion.
The 10-cent fare increase introduced in January has also boosted city revenue.
4. The city is taking on debt to pay for big projects
Over the next ten years, the city is proposing to take on 3.3 billion in debt. That proposed number includes projects such as Tory’s SmartTrack, the rehabilitation of the Gardiner Expressway, and the Port Lands flood protection plan.
5. Property taxes are going up, mostly to pay for emergency services, housing and transit
Property taxes will also increase according to the proposed budget. Toronto residents should prepare to see a residential property tax increase of 2 per cent.
In the proposed budget, the average house in Toronto will pay $2,835 in property taxes with 74 per cent of that money goes to the Police Service and board, the TTC, Fire Services, debt charges, and Shelter, Support, and Housing including TCHC.
City Council will vote on the budget on Feb 15 and 16. For more information about check out toronto.ca/budget