Loading articles...

Capital, operating budgets clear first hurdle at city hall

The city’s budget committee spent Monday debating the 2012 capital and operating budgets, including $88 million in service cuts that include potential reductions to homeless shelters, arts and culture and recreation funding.

Daycare programs and HIV prevention services also face the chopping block.

So far, the budget committee has approved the 10-year capital budget with amendments at the meeting.

“If the world was perfect we wouldn’t be borrowing any surpluses in order to balance the 2012 budget. We have,” budget chief Mike Del Grande said at the meeting.

“We still have on our books a [capital] shortfall of $700 million…the plan to address that includes monetizing city assets and looking at operating surpluses to cover that.”

“There’s no magic money tree, there’s no bottomless pit on the wallet, so I think the capital budget is very reasonable,” Del Grande said.

Below is a Twitter feed following the hashtag, #TOpoli.

The capital and operating budgets will go before the executive committee for a final review on Thursday before council votes on the financial plans the following week.

Last week, the city announced the 2011 budget surplus was higher-than-anticipated, at $154 million.

“This money will help us pay for capital purchases we need to improve transit in Toronto,” Mayor Rob Ford said in a statement Friday.

The mayor also said the city has been able to find $2.5 million to maintain student nutrition programs and to keep city programming running at 12 school-based community centres — programs previously slated to end as part of proposed operating budget cuts.

Other proposed cuts that are still on the table include the closures of five wading pools and two outdoor pools.

Kids decked out in swimming goggles and towels gathered at city hall Monday to protest the proposed cuts.

Two pools, one at Bedford Park and the other at Sir Wilfrid Laurier, were saved.

Ten city-run arenas could also have their operating hours reduced.

Ford has asked each department to slash budgets by 10 per cent, and has proposed a property tax increase of 2.5 per cent and user fee increases.

The committee voted that the Toronto Public Library board cut its budget by the full 10 per cent. Last month, the chief librarian proposed to cut the remaining 4.3 per cent over two years.

“Budget Committee votes for the full 10 per cent cut to the Library Budget. Now the Board has to either cut hours, programs, and or collections,” Coun. Sarah Doucette posted on Twitter.

On Sunday, a group of concerned health professionals gathered at city hall to protest the cuts, saying the poor will be the hardest hit.

“First of all, Toronto faces serious health issues now before any cuts to existing programs,” Dr. Michael Rachlis said Sunday.

Rachlis, a specialist on public health and an associate professor at the University of Toronto School of Medicine, said, “the purposed cuts would make the current situation worse. … There are alternatives that must be considered before we compromise the health and well-being of Toronto citizens.”

Coun. Joe Mihevc said Toronto residents don’t support the cost-cutting measures.

“People think this budget is cruel, they think that it is radically conservative, and that’s not where people want to go. They want their libraries. They want their rec centres. They want to access TTC reasonably,” Mihevc said outside city hall Sunday.

With files from 680News