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Core Services Review Part 8: police, TTC cuts proposed

File photo of Toronto police cruisers. CITYNEWS

Reducing the size of the police force, eliminating late-night TTC bus routes and axing the School Crossing Guard Program are some of the suggestions contained in the eighth and final KPMG report for the City of Toronto.

Other proposed cutbacks include closing libraries and selling landmarks, such as the Toronto Zoo and Exhibition Place.

The latest study, released Thursday, is part of a core services review ordered by Mayor Rob Ford. The city hired KPMG to audit 150 municipal services and find potential savings to help close a $774 shortfall in its 2012 operating budget.

Cuts to the Toronto Police Service, including reducing the size of the force by temporarily eliminating new hires and providing incentives for early retirement, were floated in the final audit of the executive committee’s agencies.

“Reduced numbers of uniform officers could adversely impact crime rates in the city,” the report said.

The consultant also suggests exploring reduced salary and benefits in the next round of contract negotiations.

Toronto Police received an 11.5 per cent pay hike this past spring after officers ratified their four-year contract.

On Thursday, Ford wouldn’t say which services will go or stay.

“To drill down right now and to give you exactly what we’re going to do, it’s very premature,” he said. “We’re at the first stage.

“We’re going from department to department. To say exactly what’s going to be contracted out, what’s going to be closed, I can’t give you that information now. I don’t think anyone can.”

The report also proposes reducing or getting rid of blue-night bus routes, or raising the fares for late-night rides. It also suggests rolling back TTC service improvements, including crowding standards and minimum service frequency to save cash.

Messages left with Coun. Michael Thompson, who is vice-chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, and Coun. Karen Stintz, who is TTC chair, weren’t immediately returned.

KPMG claims there are savings to be had through changes to the Wheel Trans program by privatizing more service, developing plans to urge riders to use accessible conventional transit and tightening eligibility criteria to lower demand.

The latest audit lists other opportunities in a wide array of areas to free up some cash, including eliminating or reducing service levels for the School Crossing Guard Program.

“It would take some time to re-establish a student-based school crossing guard program. Some parents will still be concerned with the safety of children crossing major streets,” the report states.

KPMG also suggests reducing library hours and closing branches and selling up to three municipally-owned theatres — the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts and the Toronto Centre for the Arts.
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Selling the Toronto Zoo could result in “high” savings (more than 20 per cent), KPMG claims. The consultant also suggests either divesting or privatizing operations at Exhibition Place. It also says merging Exhibition Place with Ontario Place could result in “low” savings.

KPMG also highlighted potential cuts to Toronto Public Health programs, including eliminating AIDS prevention, student nutrition and dental health programs.

Coun. Paula Fletcher said she was in disbelief over the latest proposed cutbacks.

“I am in total shock over what the KPMG recommendations are for executive [committee]….This is Armageddon.”

Other suggestions in the KPMG report include:

–divesting Heritage Toronto to a third party.
–selling city-owned off-street parking lots and garages.
–eliminating the Toronto Atmospheric Fund.

The executive committee will consider the KPMG recommendations in a meeting on July 28.

Click here to read the report.

With files from CityNews’ Avery Haines