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Councillor Blames Politicians' Perks For Your Tax Hike

By now you’ve heard you’ll be paying about $80 more in taxes this year than last.

It’s all part of the $7.8 billion budget City Councillors passed on Monday, a cobbled together document that raises levies 3.8 percent for property tax owners and a little more than one percent for businesses.

Users of city recreational facilities will also have to pay three percent more.

Councillors also raided the so-called ‘rainy day’ fund, withdrawing $278 million to cover services that the city otherwise wouldn’t be able to cover – like snow clearing, road repairs, the TTC and more.

But while politicians insist they did everything they could to prevent a tax hike, one of their own is adamant it’s simply not the case.

Councillor Rob Ford, long a critic of profligate spending at City Hall, proposed 45 different motions designed to eliminate councillor perks and save the taxpayers’ money.

None of them passed.

Among the items your local representatives retained: complimentary memberships to city run golf courses, passes to the Toronto Zoo, free parking, tokens to ride anywhere on the TTC, a free pass to Casa Loma and a big buffet crammed with food, coffee and soft drinks that’s spread out at every council meeting.

Most councillors turned down Ford’s motions, blaming the province for not ponying up their fair share instead.  

But Ford insists giving up the extras would have changed the outcome of what you’ll owe in 2007.

“All the stuff is not necessary,” he condemns. “They didn’t cut one red cent, not one. But yet they turn around and say we don’t have any money.

“Well, don’t lie to the public. We have lots of money. We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

Can’t councillors afford to pay their way on the TTC?

“Of course,” concedes Ward 28’s Pam McConnell. “But I think that what we were trying to do and what the TTC is trying to do is to get councillors who wouldn’t normally use the TTC to get onto the TTC.”

Many argue most perks don’t really cost the city any money, and nothing would be gained by eliminating them.

But what about something with a definite bill attached – the $3 million in renovations to City Hall, including $600,000 to fix up Mayor David Miller’s office?

He argues he needs the space. “It is the year to hire more staff in the mayor’s office,” he answers. “The new City of Toronto Act gives me more responsibilities.”

But not all voters agree that getting rid of perks is the best solution. “If you want serious people to do serious work, then you have to compensate them,” one constituent contends.

Ford blames a political war between the city, the province and the federal government for the tax hikes, noting one leans toward the N.D.P., the second is Liberal and the latter is Conservative, leading to infighting on party lines – and on solutions that should have been used to save you a bundle.

So what do politicians actually get for free and how much does it really cost? The following approximate figures are based on the motions made by Councillor Rob Ford on Monday and supplied to CityNews by his office.

Free golf passes for council and staff: $15,000

Councillors’ food and beverage budget: $55,000

Councillors’ hospitality budget: $25,000

Magazines/newspaper subscriptions: $14,712

Free tickets to plays, concerts, etc.: $18,273

Free TTC Metropasses: $5,622

Free taxi chits: $18,115

Gas and mileage expenses: $45,171

Plant watering in city buildings: $100,000

Newspaper clipping service: $40,000

Reduce one councillor staff position: $2.8 million


Other perks:

Free passes to the Metro Zoo

Free passes to Casa Loma

Free parking at Green P lots

Free admission and parking at Exhibition Place


Other expenses

Free cigarettes and wine for shelter services: $43,400

Annual report card on Homes for the Aged: $4,500

Fire services newsletter: $10,000

Waste watch newsletter: $231,890

City Routes newsletter: $233,892

Inside Toronto employee newsletter: $20,000

Public Library newsletter: $100,000

TTC newsletter: $175,000