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Proposed 2012 budget includes TTC & property tax hikes

Torontonians will get a 10-cent TTC fare hike, a 2.5 per cent property tax increase and various service “adjustments” under Mayor Rob Ford’s proposed 2012 operating budget.

However, they won’t pay more for garbage collection or face library closures.

Ford said his 2012 city budget is a “smart” and “responsible” plan that “slams the door on out-of-control spending.”

Just over 2,300 municipal workers would also lose their jobs if Ford’s financial plan is approved—among them are 372 positions from the police force, 324 from the TTC and 152 from the library.

During a pre-budget news conference Monday morning the mayor made no mention of the 10-cent transit fare hike, nor did he discuss the tough financial decisions facing city departments including the Toronto Police force.

Ford has called on all city departments to cut spending by 10 per cent to plug a $774 million shortfall in next year’s budget of $9.35 billion. “There aren’t any sacred cows,” he said Monday morning.

The proposed hike at TTC fare boxes would bring in $30 million annually and help the commission reach that 10 per cent target. The TTC will also reduce service levels on 52 rush-hour bus routes and 36 off-peak bus and streetcar routes, starting Jan. 8, 2012.

“If you are a TTC patron and you’re waiting for that bus an extra five, ten, fifteen minutes and then when you’re on the bus you’re crowded like a sardine, you’re not going to feel good about this budget,” Coun. Joe Mihevc said.

“The mayor only sees the financial side, he never sees the cost in terms of what it means to people on the street.”

The first draft of the budget was released during a presentation at city hall on Monday morning. Some members of the public were removed from council chambers and the meeting was delayed and moved to a committee room.

Ford said the “efficiencies” and “adjustments” found during the core service review released in the summer will result in $355 million in savings. The mayor said that amount is more than the one-time money the city needed to balance the budget last year.

“Our 2012 budget is a smart budget,” Ford said. “It’s a responsible budget. It’s a budget that slams the door on out-of-control spending.”

“For the first time ever folks we will spend less next year than we did this year,” he said. “That is unheard of.”

“That’s exactly what the taxpayers wanted and demanded.”

To find savings the mayor is also proposing that five wading pools and two outdoor pools close, programming will end at select TDSB pools and off-peak reductions at select arenas.

In terms of investments, the city plans to spend $3.6 million on emerald ash borer tree abatement, $1.8 million on waterfront parks, and will spend $30 million on 188 new TTC bus drivers to handle ridership growth.

Three city shelters will also close and WinterCity outdoor programming will end.

“The bulk of what is being proposed to cut are really internal services, internal positions that the average person has no idea about [and they] don’t provide any direct front-line service,” Coun. Peter Milczyn, who chairs the planning and growth committee, said.

Ford said the fact that taxpayers won’t receive a garbage rate hike is a “huge achievement.” Homeowners may have a hard time swallowing yet another 9 per cent water rate hike—a necessary move to fund the $1.7 billion backlog in repairs and upgrades, the mayor said.

“It’s always more expensive later, that’s why we must act now to rebuild our fiscal foundation,” Ford said.

Here’s a look at the 2012 service cuts being proposed:

-Reducing TTC services on almost every bus and streetcar route will cut $14 million from the TTC’s budget, as indicated last week.
-Defer hiring 236 police officers will cut $14.6 million from the Toronto Police Services’ budget.
-Defer hiring 68 firefighters will cut $7.2 million from the Fire Services’ budget.
-Defer hiring 36 paramedics will cut $1.1 million from EMS’s budget.
-Reduce branch hours and library materials will cut $7.3 million from the Toronto Public Library’s budget, but the type of cut could change depending on what the board proposes next month. The board decided last week to consider other ways than reducing branch hours such as cutting children’s or literacy programs.
-reducing $4.6 million in funding from the Community Partnership & Investment Program.
-closing five wading pools and 2 outdoor pools, eliminating programming at TDSB pools, eliminating recreational programming at selected TDSB schools and reducing off-peak hours at selected arenas will will cut $3.5 million from Parks, Forestry & Recreation’s budget.
-closing non-core, non-provincially mandated shelters will save $1.97 million.
-Ending WinterCity outdoor programming will cut $460,000 from the Economic Development & Culture’s budget.
-changes to local sidewalk snow clearing service and road cleaning service will cut $928,000 and $4.2 million, respectively, from the Transportation Services’ budget.
-closing visitor cafeterias at Long Term Care Homes & Services will save $612,000.
-redirect subsidy from school boards to subsidized parents ($1.6 million) and “realign” child care service delivery at hostels ($820,000) at Children’s Services.

In an effort to find “gravy,” the city hired consultant KPMG last spring to come up with money-saving suggestions. Some of the consultant’s recommendations, which included closing libraries and cutting thousands of subsidized child care spaces, sparked outrage that resulted in marathon sessions at city hall to hear from the public.

Ford said the budget process included more public consultation than “any previous budget.”

The city held eight public meetings, listened to 1,200 people at public sessions and received responses from 13,000 people to an online service review survey, the mayor said.

City councillors will spend the next month reviewing and debating the proposed budget. The financial document will then go before the executive committee Jan. 12 ahead of a city council vote later that month.

“We must stay the course on this budget… and we will finally turn the corner in 2012 and begin to breathe a tiny bit easier,” the mayor said.

The city also implemented its Voluntary Separation Program in an effort to reduce the size of the workforce at city hall. Just over 1,100 took the bait and only 230 applications were accepted.

Earlier this month, the executive committee approved a recommendation to sell the city’s 43 per cent stake in Enwave— the company operates three steam plants and a state-of-the-art cooling plant in Toronto that supplies air conditioning to 60 downtown buildings.

The city could potentially make about $100 million from the sale. Council is scheduled to vote on the move Tuesday.

To read the entire budget, click here.

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