At the beginning of February, Mayor Miller and Budget Chief Shelley Carroll introduced the draft budget for consideration by City Council. The budget proposal is the first balanced budget introduced since the amalgamation of Toronto. It also addresses several City priorities. There will be improved public transit service. We will begin implementing our 70% waste diversion plan. Key parts of the City climate plan are starting up. Neighborhood beautification projects such as the clean up of orphan spaces will be enhanced. Nuit Blanche will expand the number of locations. The chronic shortage of planning staff has been addressed.
To do this, and maintain core City services we have implemented the Land Transfer tax and Vehicle Registration Fee. This year’s property tax increase will be 3.75 % for homeowners and 1.25 % for non-residential buildings.
The budget is a complex document. I spent 3 months as a member of the budget committee working through detailed reviews of several departmental budgets such as the TTC. In that process we set guidelines for City staff which lead to the draft budget.
There are a few issues outstanding such as the potential fee increases for recreation. As you know I have been publicly opposed to some of these proposals. In the main though, I am very proud of the work of the Budget Committee. We kept the property tax increase well below most municipalities in the region, protected services, and improved in the areas that we heard from the public are very important to them.
In the next few weeks we will be reviewing public feedback on the budget and debating proposed changes. The final budget debate takes place in early March. To find out more direct information on the capital and operating budgets for 2008, you can also visit the City’s new website:http://www.toronto.ca/toronto-budget/index.html