Toronto announces 2009 operating budget

Post by Eric Mang in ,

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t.o. budget

Today, Toronto released its 2009 operating budget containing a residential property tax increase some media are calling "hefty".

At 4%, Torontonians are still getting a pretty good deal; particularly when you compare the proposed tax increases in BC cities as reported last week by Daniel on CityCaucus.

Toronto unveiled an $8.7 billion budget and like all municipalities, the budget must be balanced.

So let’s put a few things into perspective:

TTC fares aren’t going up.

The Land Transfer Tax and $60 vehicle tax are fairly minor in the greater scheme of things. The LTT only concerns you if you buy a house (meaning you have some level of income to afford a house) and the vehicle tax amounts to $5 a month – about the same as a Grande latte at Starbucks or the amount your cable provider just jacked up on your monthly bill. Neither the LTT nor the vehicle tax are being increased, with the former taking a whack due to the plunge in the housing market.

Some user fees are increasing. For example, there’s a modest 3.7% increase for city-run programs or renting city-run facilities.

The 4% increase to residential property taxes works out to by about $90 per year on a home assessed at $387,000. Or $7.50 per month. Is this really a “hefty increase”? No.

Recognizing the hurt some Torontonians are feeling, the budget offers:

  • Improving transit service across the city through the TTC Ridership Growth Strategy
  • Making the Streets to Homes program permanent
  • Adding 35 new or enhanced programs for at-risk groups including seniors, youth, women and aboriginal youth in priority neighbourhoods
  • Opening the City’s new 311, 24-hour customer service contact centre
  • Reducing wait times for EMS paramedics by adding nursing shifts in hospital emergency rooms
  • Maintaining snow clearing and removal service
  • Increasing the hours at Toronto Public Libraries under the self-service project
  • Increasing the number of recreation programs at various community centres
  • Rolling out 3,500 pieces of new street furniture
  • Opening 70 km of additional bike lanes
  • Increasing the City’s tree canopy through increased plantings and maintenance
  • Opening new and upgraded parks and playgrounds

Mississauga releases its budget tomorrow and unlike Toronto’s budget, it could be tough on the denizens of that community. According to the Toronto Star, Mississauga City Council will increase transit fares by 25 cents, cut library hours (that seems absolutely philistine to me), cut road maintenance (Mississauga may want to see how Vancouver handled this winter’s snowfall…) and homeowners may see their property tax increase by 4.5%. The Star reports that when combined with the Peel Region property tax increase of 3.1%, the average homeowner in Mississauga will pay $111 per household, or $9.25 more per month.

A final note:  I had to wonder what the CBC was trying to convey in its story on the Toronto budget. To illustrate a point that “some property owners say the increase is too much”, they interviewed a guy who owns several properties in Toronto and feels “taxed out”. Umm, not really a portrait of your average citizen. And what’s this guy doing with his several properties? I’m sure he’s earning rental income. For someone who can afford several properties in Toronto, saying he feels taxed out due to a 4% increase seems a little, er, rich.

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