Chow says 2024 budget will fully fund Scarborough busway, confirms lower property tax hike

Toronto’s spending plan for the next year still includes a record tax hike for Toronto homeowners — but it won’t be as high as initially proposed.

Mayor Olivia Chow presented the final budget in Scarborough on Thursday morning, confirming a 9.5 per cent property tax hike, as was previously reported by CityNews. The new rate is one per cent less than the 10.5 per cent tax that was recommended in January.

The new tax hike would still be the highest since amalgamation and would eclipse the seven per cent increase former mayor John Tory pushed through last year.

“We cannot cut away all of this mess,” said Chow, responding to critics who argue, instead of raising taxes, the city should look for more savings elsewhere. “If we cut deeper, we could be cutting at bone and hitting the marrow.”

Toronto is facing a budget deficit of nearly $1.8 billion.

More cuts “would only accelerate the decline of our transit system,” says Chow.

She also revealed, as part of her first budget as mayor, the city plans to foot the bill for Scarborough’s much-anticipated busway and fully fund the east-end transit corridor.

The busway will be built in place of where the Scarborough RT used to run. Transit advocates have been calling for the dedicated bus route since the RT stopped running last summer.

The TTC prematurely shut down Line 3 Scarborough RT due to a derailment. Chow says the 2024 spending plan will be able to cover the nearly $70 million cost of the replacement transit route.

“The shutdown of the Scarborough RT without a replacement, an entire rapid transit line, is symbolic of the decades of underinvestment in our city and the people who live here,” said Chow in a statement.

Toronto police chief not happy with mayor’s budget

The mayor has pointed to police spending as an area where the city could come away with significant savings. Toronto police will see a bump in their budget, but it will still fall $12 million short of what police chief Myron Demkiw has been asking for.

Demkiw has warned the cut would create an “unacceptable risk” to public safety. The board had asked for an increase of $20 million.

“My command team will be looking at some very difficult choices to ensure we have enough officers available for emergency response,” said Demkiw, speaking from Toronto Police Service headquarters on Thursday afternoon. “This may be the most significant budget conversation we’ve had in this city as it relates to public safety.”

Opponents argue adding more money to the police budget doesn’t correlate to a safer city. A recent University of Toronto study found no consistent relation between police funding and crime rates across 20 canadian municipalities, including Toronto.

The budget will go before city council on Feb. 14 and Mayor Chow has previously indicated that she would not use the strong mayor powers to push her budget through.

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