Budget? More Like A Fudge-it. (Yeah! Nailed It!)

February 18, 2010

Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

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With the proposed city budget now open for public viewing, I think it’s worth quoting some contrasting, old school pro-taxation observations to counter the prevailing hue and cry of outrage and indignation making the rounds from the trained anti-tax seals. Like it or not, Toronto delivered a balanced budget without any of the usual help from the province, using an up tick in property taxes (its main revenue source), a healthy dose of user fees and some hocus pocus pulling of hitherto unknown surpluses and savings from a magic hat.

Deceitful? Yeah probably, but by now we should be used to grave government pre-budget prognostications that help cushion the actual blow with some surprisingly good news once the official announcement is made. Illusory? Only time will tell.

But the point here is that there is a balanced budget in place which – and it bares repeating – is legally mandated for all municipalities in this province by a government that is presently staring at its own $24.7 billion deficit owing to the tough economic times we are living through. Yeah, yeah. The irony of the situation is thicker than the cast of The Bachelor. Yet somehow provincial officials manage to keep a straight face when dictating fiscal prudence to the cities.

With a month or two to digest the budgetary nuts and bolts as it winds its way toward a full council debate and vote in April, let’s focus now on the user fees and property tax increases. “Nickeled and dimed”, so says Pete Kuitenbrouwer of the National Post. “Oink! Another trip to the trough”, according to the Toronto Sun which, really, can’t be considered a source of information but more of a stream of consciousness vomiting directly up from the reactionary slice of society’s id. “The mayor says you can’t have a great city for free,” said candidate Rocco Rossi. “But neither can you take a free ride on the backs of taxpayers year after year.”

Free ride?!

People like Rocco Rossi, the writers at the Toronto Sun and National Post apparently think that our tax dollars travel straight from us plain folkses wallets into some off-shore slush fund for greasy politicians and union members. In the same article that featured Rossi’s inane babblings, it’s stated that it now costs Toronto homeowners $6.39 a day for the services we receive from the city; services that include (and I’m quoting directly): police, fire, ambulance, TTC, libraries, parks and rec and much more [bolding mine].

All that for the low, low price of $6.39?! As a homeowner, it seems mighty reasonable to me. You can’t get 3 square meals a day from McDonald’s for that price. And them’s empty calories, my friends.

Nobody likes to pay taxes. The mayor’s claim that homeowners in Toronto still pay less property tax than anywhere in the GTA only goes so far. That’s as it should be as in most Toronto neighbourhoods, houses make a smaller footprint than those in the outer suburbs and the economy of scale kicks in delivering city services to more people/area. It’s disconcerting, our growing reliance on user fees which inevitably come down on the poorest amongst us although budget chief Shelley Carroll talked about subsidies for those that need them.

Wouldn’t it be grand to live where everything was free and the only money we ever had to spend went to filling our bellies and providing us with digital cable? When you find such a place, let me know. I might come and crash on your couch for a little bit, suss it out.

Until then, how be we suck it up. This budget is going to spring leaks. They always do. It is a stopgap measure to get us through an ugly economic period. More than a decade after amalgamation and downloading of services, the expected savings never materialized and the revenue neutral nature of the process wasn’t neutral at all. We’re still bearing the costs of the ill-advised property tax freeze by the Mel Lastman regime (peopled by many of the same stiffs now surrounding the Rocco Rossi and George Smitherman campaigns) that waited for the savings and the revenue neutrality to appear. It never did. Now we’re paying the piper, hoping for saner heads to arrive.

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I like to pay taxes.  With them I buy civilization. — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

submitted by Cityslikr


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