Budget 2010 — lowest taxes, unbeatable services, great city
Toronto Mayor David Miller spoke at the Budget Committee meeting on February 16, where the recommended 2010 Operating Budget was introduced by the City Manager and Chief Financial Officer. Below is an excerpt of the Mayor’s remarks which include his top ten budget facts that all residents and businesses should know…
“Toronto’s budget is far more than just a balance sheet. It is the blueprint we use to implement the many programs and services that keep this City liveable, prosperous and provide opportunity for every single resident of our city.
In the weeks ahead, there will no doubt be considerable discussion about this budget and our City’s finances.
Any discussion on the City’s budget should keep in mind the following facts:
1. Toronto has the lowest residential property taxes in the entire GTA.
While I believe the proposed $93-a-year increase (on average) is fair and modest, the fact is that if you live in a condominium or house in this city you will still pay less in residential property taxes than those elsewhere in GTA with similar valued property.
In 2009, the average home in Toronto had an assessed value of $387,680.
The owner of this home in Toronto paid $2,334 in residential property taxes to the City – about $6.39 a day.
If that same home is in Mississauga, the owner paid $2,559 in property taxes – $225 more. If that same Toronto home were in Markham, the homeowner paid $3,037 – $703 more – and if that same home were in Vaughan, the homeowner paid $3,314 in property taxes – almost $1,000 more.
The facts are clear. If you own a home or condo in Toronto you paid less residential property taxes in 2009 than any other municipality in the GTA.
2. Our city is a compassionate community where people help and support one another in tough times.
Last year, this government, as part of the Toronto Helps program, launched a series of measures aimed at helping people to keep their housing and find work.
We also assisted more seniors and disabled persons with property tax assistance programs.
3. This government has cut business taxes by more than $190 million since 2006.
If the measures recommended in this budget are adopted, that number increases to well over $250 million.
4. We are taking action to stimulate the economy at a local level.
For the past two years Toronto has frozen development charges to assist the construction and development industry. This has meant lower costs for a sector adversely affected during the current recession.
Together, these measures demonstrate the very high priority this City government has placed on supporting business and our economy.
In addition, the creation of two new corporations – Invest Toronto and Build Toronto – will see us redouble our efforts and produce results that will benefit the entire region.
5. Toronto’s user fees for programs cover only a portion of the costs associated with delivering the service.
In fact, user fees for recreation cover only about 30 % of the cost of programming.
It’s a fact that the fees Toronto charges are competitive and consistent with those charged by surrounding municipalities.
Although user fees make up only about 15 % of the City’s total revenues, without this money the City would be unable to provide the programs that make Toronto the great city that it is.
6. This year’s budget, like those before, includes spending restraint, efficiencies, some adjustments in service
levels while ensuring our residents continue to receive the programs and services they rely on.
This year, wage restraint is achieved by a post-strike settlement that included wage increases far less than those being requested prior to the strike and the City also successfully negotiating the removal of a sick leave benefit that had been in the collective agreement for more than 50 years.
In addition, restraint on management and non-union wages have and will save the City considerable expense on an ongoing basis.
Our 2010 budget is balanced through careful and prudent management, wage restraint (which generated a surplus from 2009 allowing us to balance 2010) and through a 4 % residential tax increase and a 1.3 % business property tax increase. User fees and the TTC fare increase also contribute to balancing this budget, as does the uploading begun by the Province two years ago.
7. The City continues to have a structural financial challenge.
It’s a fact the City needs the province to return to the sustainable transit operating funding that was in place for decades prior to amalgamation.
We will be working with the Province of Ontario to conclude a Toronto - Ontario Partnership Agreement by December 1, 2010 to provide the City with permanent sustainable transit operating funding, commencing in fiscal 2011.
Transit is too important to be financed with ad-hoc, year-end or one-time funds, and the TTC is too important to the future of Toronto to allow it to suffer from uncertain funding year after year.
8. The City has taken steps to extend part of its debt over a longer period of time.
Debt restructuring has reduced our operating budget costs by $33 million this year alone.
This strategy provides the City the flexibility it needs to address our operating budget challenge and still maintain the City’s excellent credit rating.
9. The budget does not include the sale or monetization of any city assets.
Any such initiative should only be contemplated if it’s in the best long-term interests of the City of Toronto and should never be used to fund any operating budget shortfall.
10. You can’t have a great city for free.
Anyone who tells you that they can freeze or cut your taxes and provide the vital 24-hour services we all rely on such as:
- Helping the most vulnerable among us
- Public transit
- Emergency services
- Safe communities where crime continues to decline
- And protecting the environment
…is simply not telling you the whole story.
Those are my ten budget facts. The two most important are the first – we have the lowest residential property taxes in the GTA, and the last – you can’t have a great City for free.
This is the year to keep these facts in mind when listening to the debate that will take place. These are the facts to keep in mind when asking questions about the City’s budget and the City’s finances.
Building a great city takes commitment, partnership and sacrifice – from all of us.
It continues to be my privilege to bear witness to the great things that are achieved when all of these attributes come together.”
Where the money comes from
*Municipal Land Transfer Tax/Personal Vehicle Tax
**Other revenues include: rental of properties, interest income, investment income, donations, parking authority contributions, sale of other materials, insurance loss recoveries, fines, permits and licenses
How your tax dollars will work for you in 2010
*Other includes: Affordable Housing Office, Court Services, Economic Development & Culture, Social Development Finance & Administration, 3-1-1 Customer Service Strategy, Policy, Planning, Finance and Administration, Technical Services, Toronto Environment Office, Waterfront Secretariat, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of the Treasurer, Facilities & Real Estate, Fleet Services, City Manager’s Office, City Clerk’s Office, Legal Services, Mayor’s Office, Auditor General’s Office, Integrity Commissioner’s Office, Lobbyist Registrar, Office of the Ombudsman, Other ABC’s, Non Program (Excl. Debt Charges & Community Partnership & Investment Program)
City Budget 2010 Did you know?
That the cost of operating the TTC used to be shared by the City and the Province of Ontario on a 50-50 basis. Paying for both the city and provincial share of this cost continues to be the number one issue affecting the City’s operating budget each year.
That salaries to both union and non-unionized staff have been restrained to meet the City’s budget pressures and reflect the current recessionary times. Management staff received a zero cost-of-living increase in 2009 and will receive a 1% cost-of-living increase in 2010. The City achieved a settlement with the union of about 6% over three years and the removal of a sick leave benefit that had been in the contract for more than 50 years.
That the money received from the Municipal Land Transfer and Vehicle Registration Tax make up only a small portion of the City’s revenues but they are enough to pay the net cost of running the City’s Emergency Medical System and Long-Term Care Homes and Services programs.
That as the number of people on provincial programs such as social assistance increases so does the cost to the City to provide the service. The service standards are set by the province and must be paid for by municipalities.
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