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Executive committee passes 2014 budget against Ford's wishes

Mayor Rob Ford attends an executive committee meeting on Dec. 5, 2013. 680NEWS/Charlene Close.

The executive committee passed the 2014 operating and capital budgets on Wednesday with a proposed 2.23-per-cent residential tax rate.

Mayor Rob Ford was the only member of the committee to vote against the budgets, which will be debated in council next week.

City staff had made a recommendation for a higher-than-expected property tax hike of 3.21 per cent, saying the city needed to replenish its extreme weather reserves after last month’s ice storm. The increase would have amounted to $81.19 a year for the average household.

The new proposed hike equals $56.30 more per household and includes changes to the Current Value Assessment (CVA) and property classes or an extra 0.48 per cent in residential property taxes.

Taxes for commercial, industrial and multi-residential properties will go down slightly.

After city staff presented the revised numbers to the committee, Ford asked if the budget considered a change to the land-transfer tax. Earlier in January Ford proposed cutting the land-transfer tax but it was voted down by the budget committee.

City staff told the mayor that the numbers were calculated using the assumption that the land-transfer tax would remain stable.

“This is the worst budget that I have ever seen since I’ve been here since the David Miller era,” Mayor Rob Ford said after earlier grilling staff about unpaid fines and staff-to-manager ratios.

“The easy way out is to spend and spend and spend, which this budget shows that we have … We have waste in many, many, many divisions … We can cut [a] minimum of three to five per cent in every one of those departments and still function.”

Ford said he plans to put forward “a slew” of budget motions in council but doubts they will pass.

“This is the most disrespectful thing you could do to the hard-working taxpayers out there,” he said.

But Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong argued Ford was conveniently ignoring the fact that the Scarborough subway extension the mayor himself proposed accounts for part of the hike.

“These are his tax increases. It’s his subway. For him to vote against this is disrespecting the taxpayers in the most fundamental way possible — not telling the truth,” Minnan-Wong said.

“We could have had an LRT for nothing … He was there from January to November. What did he do during that time? Did he propose any efficiencies? Did he implement any efficiencies. No he did not.

“And then he points a finger at us saying it’s all our fault. That’s not leadership. That’s not being a leader. That’s being a coward.”

Here are three possible tax hikes, which include the new 0.48-per-cent figure and which council will debate next week:

  • 1.73 per cent — budget-committee-approved hike plus tree canopy maintenance
  • 2.23 per cent — budget-committee-approved hike plus tree canopy maintenance and extreme weather reserves
  • 3.21 per cent — budget-committee-approved hike plus tree canopy maintenance, extreme weather reserves and Scarborough subway

Click here to read the meeting agenda.

Follow the tweets below of CityNews and 680News reporters covering the meeting.

The $9.6-billion operating budget has a deficit of more than $200-million and an additional $43-million due to the provincial funding cuts that affect the city’s housing programs. It must be balanced each year.

The committee also discussed the $1-billion police budget.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly declared a conflict of interest on the police budget due to the fact that his wife is a civilian TPS employee.

Despite some councillors asking Mayor Ford to recuse himself from the meeting after he was caught on video making rude comments about Police Chief Bill Blair, he voted on the budget without declaring a conflict. The video was shot at Etobicoke restaurant Steak Queen on Monday.

Coun. Minnan-Wong — who plans to run against Ford in the 2014 municipal election — said the mayor’s comments about the chief might have an impact on his discussion of the budget.

The budget will go before city council on Jan. 29.