Toronto council holding special meeting to set city’s 2020 budget

After weeks of consultations and tweaks, Toronto City Council held a special meeting to set the city’s 2020 budget.

The city’s finances are divided into the $13.5 billion operating budget for the fiscal year and $43.5 billion for 10-year capital plans.

This year, the city is increasing funding for transit, affordable housing, and public safety. Funding for both of the areas comes primarily from property taxes.

The 2020 budget will raise property taxes by two percent. Combined with the council’s earlier decision to increase the special property tax levy for the City Building Fund, rates will actually increase by 3.5 percent.

For the average Toronto home with an assessed value of $703,000, homeowners will pay about $128 more on their bills.

Speaking ahead of the special meeting, Mayor John Tory acknowledged the increase could be difficult for some Torontonians. He said it was a balanced and measured approach which recognizes the city’s needs.

“We’re also doing things to make life more affordable” said Tory. He cited free transit for children 12 and under, a low income transit pass, and long-term investments into affordable housing as a strong reason behind the decision.

Tory also said that efficiencies found in the budget prevented much larger increases, pointing to a seven percent tax hike in Vancouver.

During the consultation process following the budget launch, criticisms about a lack of programming to reduce youth violence, led to an adjustment by the mayor. Tory said the funding was inadequate, which is why $6 million was needed for youth hubs and other programming.

Still, many councillors are looking for more money to cover issues left unaddressed. Several councillors have cited the need for the reintroduction of a vehicle registration tax. City staff said a vehicle tax would raise an extra $55 million a year for the city. Conversely, the funds raised by a one percent property tax increase, is $30 million a year.

The city is required to keep its spending within the parameters of its operating budget, so councillors begin the budget debate by going over potential adjustments to the tax rate. When that is set, they will begin to set spending for programs.

The city’s budget contains a large $77 million hole in it, caused by a lack of funding for housing refugees in the city’s shelter system. For weeks Tory has said he will continue to press the federal government to provide funding. He added that he will continue to work with other levels of government to continue to fund other key areas.

More to come…

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