The City of Toronto’s Budget Committee today began the process to review the staff-recommended tax-supported and rate-supported operating and capital budgets for 2019. The budgets will be reviewed and debated by Budget and Executive Committees before being finalized and approved by City Council at its meeting on March 7.
The 2019 staff-recommended operating budget of $13.46 billion focuses on finding sustainable savings across City divisions and agencies while maintaining service levels and making modest investments and enhancements in key areas. The budget includes $54.7 million in new investments for key priorities and enhanced services.
“Toronto’s 2019 budget maintains current service levels, addresses many of the challenges faced by the City – such as aging infrastructure, affordable housing and climate change – while facing pressures from the policies of other orders of government,” said Gary Crawford (Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest), Chair of the Budget Committee. “This budget allows City staff to continue to deliver more than 150 services every day that strive to make our people, neighbourhoods, businesses and infrastructure thrive.”
The budget proposes an overall tax increase of 1.8 per cent after assessment growth with a 2.55 per cent increase for residential properties, 1.28 per cent increase for commercial properties and 0.85 per cent for industrial properties in support of Council’s tax policy to enhance the City’s business climate. There will be no increase for multi-residential/apartment buildings as per provincial legislation.
“The City’s 2019 staff-recommended budget is the first budget of the new City Council, and takes a pragmatic and sensible approach to maintaining services and responding to the emerging needs of Canada’s largest city,” said City Manager Chris Murray. “The budget that staff are recommending to City Council is balanced, while acknowledging there remain challenges around aging infrastructure, mobility, housing, social inequities and climate change.
“The City of Toronto delivers more than 150 services to the people of Toronto and the Toronto Public Service, which I am proud to lead, is committed to excellence in all that it does for this great city.”
In addition to ongoing expense management, a number of balancing strategies have been applied to eliminate the budget pressure. The strategies include constraining City operations costs, as well as assumed federal funding to address an increase in refugees and asylum seekers in the City’s shelter system. Staff also recommended a 10-cent TTC fare increase, a 2.2 per cent increase for garbage collection and a 3 per cent water rate increase.
After a pause in the reductions of the Single Family Solid Waste Rebate in 2018, staff recommend that the Solid Waste Rebate (single family and multi-residential) be completely phased out over the next four years. Council adopted the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy in 2016, which recommends that Solid Waste Management Services become a fully self-sufficient and sustainable utility.
The volume-based rate structure is intended to provide an incentive for residents to reduce their waste and divert more away from landfill. Once the rebate is phased out, those who produce more garbage will still pay more than those who produce less. To minimize the impact on ratepayers with low incomes, staff are recommending a Single Family Residential Low Income Relief Program, which will be incorporated into the existing Toronto Water Rebate Program.
With Municipal Land Transfer Tax (MLTT) revenues lower than projected for 2018, staff have proposed a strategy to reduce the reliance on this unpredictable revenue source for operational needs. It is recommended that the City temporarily adjust the current annual capital contributions by $46 million. Moving forward, a dedicated amount of the MLTT would be used towards operating costs and anything above that amount would go to building capital infrastructure.
The 2019 capital budget is $40.67 billion, of which 49 per cent is dedicated to maintaining and investing in the City’s state of good repair. A total of $783 million in new investments has been added to the City’s 10-year capital plan in areas such as transit, modernization, emergency services and accessibility improvements. Seventy per cent of the tax-supported 10-year capital plan is dedicated to transit and transportation.
Members of the public can share their views with the Budget Committee at public presentations, scheduled to take place on February 7 and 11. More information about how to make a deputation is available at http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis.
Backgrounders on the Solid Waste and Toronto Water budgets are available at https://www.toronto.ca/home/media-room/.
More information about the budget is available at https://www.toronto.ca/budget.