NEWS

City council to vote on John Tory’s first budget as mayor

03/10/2015 10:38 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT
John Tory hopes to pass his first budget as mayor today, though conflict among Toronto’s council is starting to mount over the $11.5-billion spending plan.

Tory met with councillors on Monday ahead of the vote to discuss any last-minute issues. While final debates and possible changes are possible, Tory’s budget chief, Coun. Gary Crawford, says the process has gone well.

"It’s a very solid, sound budget that I think the majority of councillors will support," Crawford said.

Tory said he believes the budget strikes a balance between keeping a lid on property taxes and making needed investments in the city. It features new money for a range of services, including restoring some bus routes cut by the last administration and making TTC free for children. It also includes a 2.75 per cent increase in property taxes.

The proposed budget also takes the unprecedented step, however, of the city borrowing from future capital projects. The city is taking this step to fill an $86-million hole in the budget that city officials say was caused when the province cancelled plans to pay for social housing. 

That move has upset some councillors, including Gord Perks, who plans to introduce a proposed tax increase a few points higher than inflation to avoid the borrowing plan.

"It’s like borrowing from your (Retirement Savings Plan) to pay your mortgage. No financial planner would tell you to do that," he said.

Coun. Rob Ford also criticized the budget in a news release that called for the mayor and councillors to vote against the solid waste rates included in the budget.

"Why is John Tory increasing waste collection pricing by 58 per cent or $18 million? I can only guess that the $18 million will be used to restart the gravy train at city hall," Ford’s statement said.

Beyond whatever tax increase is approved, residents will also be hit with an additional one per cent tax dedicated to pay for the Scarborough subway.

The debate over the new budget may also see council bring up new revenue tools, something Tory hasn’t discussed in detail since taking office.

"At the end of the day this is a pretty good budget," said Coun. Joe Mihevc, who added left-leaning councillors have been encouraged by the document.

"It restores some of the cuts that were made in the previous administration, it makes a good down payment on poverty reduction … the TTC can’t help but be pleased."

Tuesday also mark’s Tory’s 100th day as mayor.

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