Message from Mayor Rob Ford
Rebuilding our Fiscal Foundation
I'm proud to tell Toronto taxpayers that its City government is turning its finances around.
Last year, we slowed the growth in city spending to less than it has ever been. This year, for the 2012 Budget, Toronto City Council stopped spending growth in its tracks. In fact, for the first time ever – the City will spend less than it did in the previous year.
That's unheard of. But that's exactly what taxpayers demanded - and that's what this Council has delivered.
This 2012 Budget is a culmination of hard work from staff and Council members during a year that was, unarguably, the most ambitious in the City's history.
For the first time since amalgamation, we launched a bold, comprehensive process to review the City's Finances, find efficiencies and identify ways to rebuild our crumbling fiscal foundation.
We consulted with thousands of people. Over 1,200 people were consulted at eight public meetings. More than 13,000 people responded to the Service Review Survey. Committees and Council held more than 101 hours of debate and heard 574 deputants.
In the end, the study helped inform us on what services the City should be delivering and Council approved the results of the Core Service Review and the User Fee Policy; this process provided the backbone for staff to create the 2012 Budget.
The people of Toronto have been very clear about what they want. First and foremost, they want its City to stop the waste, to reduce expenses and to hold the line on taxes. They knew we would face difficult decisions and we delivered.
Through our Core Service Review, service efficiencies and modest service adjustments, we found $327 million in savings this year. That's 10 per cent of our 2011 NET budget.
Our reliance on previous year surpluses has dropped from $346 million in 2011 to $102 million in 2012. That means we have made significant progress in reducing our reliance on one-time revenues and eliminating our structural deficit. That's a tremendous success. It's the result of an intense year-long effort by City Staff, Committee Chairs and members of Council. As part of these savings, we will see the City's total work force reduced by 1,540 employees. That's a significant change.
We've done something in Toronto that few city governments have done. We've begun the process of reducing the size and cost of government to a sustainable level. We've made huge strides in rebuilding our fiscal foundation.
The staff recommended budget includes some modest service adjustments. With an opening pressure of $774 million, we were faced with some daunting prospects.
- We were faced with closing libraries to save money for child care or emergency services - Instead, we've managed to avoid library closures by digging deep to find efficiencies in the library system.
- We have been able to keep our property tax increase this year to a manageable 2.5 per cent - that's less than inflation.
- Our water budget is in the seventh year of a nine-year program of rate increases to fund our $1.7 billion backlog of repairs.
- Rising costs for garbage collection were set to drive rates up by four per cent. However, because we acted to outsource collection in District 2, we will save about $11.5 million per year going forward. It is those savings, ladies and gentlemen, that mean Council can approve a 2012 Budget with no increases to garbage rates for homeowners next year.
Through all this, we have to remember the global economy is reeling and, while Canada is doing better than most nations, unemployment is up in Toronto. Average people are not getting raises and cannot afford to pay much higher taxes.
We will work to create an Economic Development Strategy to create jobs for people in Toronto and help drive assessment growth to further strengthen our fiscal foundation.
Once we've rebuilt our fiscal foundation in 2012, we will begin building a better city for all of us to enjoy, for all of us to be proud of and to entice the world leading up to the 2015 Pan-Am Games.
The 2012 budget is a SMART budget. It's a RESPONSIBLE budget. It's a budget that slams the door on out of control spending. It's a budget that begins to rebuild our Fiscal Foundation.
The underlying groundwork is necessary in order to cast a vision for Toronto's future. We all have a dream for what the City can become. Whatever your dream for our city is, it depends on one thing: the City's ability to make its own choices, to chart its own course, to shape its own destiny.
And all of this depends on our strong financial foundation.
Mayor Rob Ford