Under The Microscope

Today the city begins the next stage of the 2014 budget with 4 days of program and service reviews. microscopeBasically a line by line breakdown of what and how City Hall is spending our money. Our hard-earned tax dollars.

The mayor, in his official capacity as visiting councillor, and his brother, the vice-chair of the budget committee, should both be present if for no other reason than to fully explain how they plan to cut the proposed staff budget in order to deliver on their 1.75% property tax increase (including a .5% for their beloved Scarborough subway). Exactly where is all this gravy that’s been leaking back onto the scene since council stripped the mayor of his power to find efficiencies and respect the taxpayers? Show us your work, gentlemen.

The chances of that happening, of course, are remote. Instead, any appearances the Fords may make will be intermittent at best with periods of heavy grandstanding. $18 million! robbingpeterSurely in a budget of nearly $10 billion we can find .0018 in efficiencies!

No doubt we could but the question this time around should be, should we, and if we do, how be we call them what they really are, cuts.

That’s the reality of even a 2.5% property tax increase with that half percent dedicated to the subway. Another budget below the rate of inflation, so there’s really no new money over all. Just a whole lot of robbing from Peter to pay Paul. For three years now, we’ve been running, grinding really, to a standstill. As this week will show, there really is no more meat to pick from the bones without threatening the vital organs.

Last week, deputant after deputant talked about the inadequacy of the city’s child care and nutritional programs. Our social housing portfolio has shown few signs of improvement. And transit. Well, transit.

It should be clear to anyone that we are not funding our city properly. We cannot, as some have claimed, cut back our way to prosperity. The rollback and freezing of revenues has resulted in reductions of services and programs the city provides. miserly(Ed Keenan shows just a few of the holes Mayor Ford has shot through his laughable 2010 campaign guarantee of no service cuts.)

And hey. If that’s the city you want to live in, where it’s pretty much everybody pay as they go with everything? Have it. Come clean and be up front about it.

I do not want to pay for that.

That should be a campaign platform, frankly.

I’m Not Paying For That.

Actually, that was pretty much what we heard in 2010. I’m not paying for retirement parties, bunny suits, councillor snacks or having plants watered. All stuff that didn’t amount to jack shit except for bad optics. Getting rid of it made no dent in anyone’s tax bills but it sure felt good. We showed those fat cats.

Let’s stop pretending it did anything other than that, however.

badmath1We have stalled in our ability to meet the city’s growing needs, both in terms of population and keeping pace with operational costs. Simply put, there are more of us and the cost of providing the services and programs we want has increased. We are not improving the quality of life for the average resident in Toronto. While there are always tough choices that need to be made, proper city building isn’t a zero sum game.

That should be the theme of this week’s budget program review. How we’re making do with less and somehow expecting better. The numbers simply don’t add up. You can’t have what you’re not willing to pay for. The question going forward is what is you’re willing to pay for?

profligately submitted by Cityslikr

5 Responses to Under The Microscope

  1. Sonny says:

    Glad to be alive!(smile) Went to the No Jets T.O. event last night at OISE. Miller was there to encourage us to protect the Waterfront from Corporate interests…

    Life under Miller which had 3% increases was better because we had staff to provide services. It kept up with population growth & inflation!

    Taxes WILL be needed to raise money for the Big Move under Metrolinx.

    From a management story I remember. The CEO asked what is 2 + 2? The corrupt account says “how much do you want it to be?”

  2. Simon Says says:

    I very much doubt city council will pass a budget with only a 2.5% increase. Everyone will take the opportunity to pad some pet project or save something from closing and the increase will be much higher and thus adding to the possible re-election of RF.

  3. Mark J. Richardson says:

    Actually, the question for Torontonians going forward is “What is it you are willing to pay for (*that doesn’t directly benefit you)…?”

    There is almost no program or service offered by the City of Toronto – supported the Right (eg.Scarborough Subway, Sidewalk Snow Clearing) or Left (eg.Recreation Programs, Below-Market Rents for Groups) – that can’t be “Politically Improved” by pretending that someone ELSE is going to pay for it.

    The services that people want appear to be very different depending on their geographic “zone”. So, maybe we provide each of the Four (4) existing Community Councils with XX-dollars per resident (within the City Budget envelope) to spend on local projects/services that their residents demand.

    NOTE : In general, I am a supporter of the idea of use-based costs (eg. Vehicle Registration, Road Tolls, User Fees, Development Charges) added to a stable-pool from an Inflation indexed Property-Tax base…but even the “Mighty/Mushy Middle” at Council know that sort of talk is (sadly) Political Kryptonite at the ballot-box.

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