City Council meeting of October 22 and 23, 2007
Council approves new land transfer and vehicle ownership taxes
Council approved the new land transfer and vehicle ownership taxes, which will net the City $300 million in revenue annually. The taxes will net approximately $175 million in 2008 with their implementation to start part way through the calendar year. This revenue will be used to ensure the City has a balanced budget in 2008, but over the long term will be invested in programs and services that make this a liveable city. The new taxes were made possible by new powers given to the City by the provincial government through the City of Toronto Act, 2006. The land transfer tax will take effect on Feb. 1, 2008, and the vehicle ownership tax in the fall. The land transfer tax will work as follows: one-half of one per cent on the first $55,000 in property values; one per cent on the next $345,000 in property values; two per cent of the value residential units exceeding $400,000 for residential transactions, and; one and a half per cent on the remaining value of up to $40 million and one per cent above that on commercial properties. A rebate of up to $3,725 will apply to first-time purchasers of homes. This means a full rebate for first time buyers of homes valued at $400,000 or less. The personal vehicle ownership tax is set at $60 for cars and $30 for motorcycles, annually. City finances.
Tax relief approved to enhance Torontoís business climate
Council approved taxation relief for residual commercial class businesses to be phased in from 2008 through to 2015 to remain competitive with other Greater Toronto Area municipalities. There are two assessment bands for businesses impacted, depending on the type of commercial property; businesses in band one will see their tax rate step down annually drop from 3.41 (times the residential rate) in 2008 to 2.5 in 2015, and in band two commercial properties will be reduced from 3.55 in 2008 to 3 times in 2015. Council also asked the provincial government to accelerate reductions in its business education rate announced in the 2007 provincial budget, and for the power to change the way properties (such as office buildings) are taxed while under construction, through to the point of occupancy.
Creation of the Cityís first ever Ombudsperson approved
The new position of Ombudsperson was approved by Council. This new position is required under the City of Toronto Act, 2006, and is an accountability position. The Ombudsperson will report to Council, and will be an objective investigator of the peopleís grievances and complaints; an option of last resort for people who feel they have been treated unfairly or an unresolved complaint about services or programs. The Ombudspersonís services will be free and readily accessible to the public. Councilís approval signaled the start of the hiring process. The Mayor and four Councillors will conduct interviews and identify the preferred candidate who must be ratified by a two-thirds majority vote by Council. A direct reporting relationship with Council will ensure the Ombudsperson remains independent and impartial. An initial office budget of $200,000 was approved, but once fully operational an annual budget of approximately $1 million is expected.
Community service hub to be developed in Crescent Town
Plans to turn the vacant St. Bernadette Catholic School into a community service hub took a step forward when Council authorized City staff to begin negotiations to secure use of the site. The City, United Way of Greater Toronto and community agencies have been working towards turning the site into a hub where a satellite community health centre and other services will be offered to this community, one of the cityís 13 priority neighbourhoods. The City expects to lease the site at no cost from the Toronto Catholic District School Board. The need for a health centre was identified by the United Way and Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and they have allocated $2.2 million for capital costs for the site to make building alterations as required, and an additional $225,000 for operating costs.
Pedestrian scrambles will take to Toronto streets
Initiatives promoting walking, cycling and improvements to public transit were approved by Council as it adopted a series of short-term proposals for sustainable transportation initiatives. These initiatives are expected to encourage people to use cars or vehicles less, and choose more environment-friendly modes of transportation. Successful outcomes will support the Cityís climate change action plan and public health goals, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their harm to the public. Among the items adopted: pedestrian scrambles at four major intersections (Bloor and Bay Sts., Bloor and Yonge Sts. Yonge and Dundas Sts. and Bay and Dundas Sts.) where vehicular traffic in all directions stop so pedestrians can cross in any direction they please; more temporary pedestrian zones where streets or areas are free of cars, promoting walking; study the possibility of an east-west bike lane along Bloor St. and Danforth Ave. from Royal York Rd. to Victoria Park Ave., with potential implementation in 2009; and actions on the transit front, such as changing the traffic signals at intersections to allow streetcars to travel faster along their routes, which will improve service and encourage more people to take transit.
Yonge-Dundas Square new home to Citytv
Council approved a land sale that will allow Rogers Communications to purchase the former (Olympic) Torch Project site at 259 Victoria St. Rogers plans to move Citytv to the site from its current Queen St. W location.
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