SPN News TORONTO CANADA
That unity, which left Councillor Rob Ford (open Rob Ford's policard) largely standing alone, saw the approval of one more staff person for each of the city’s watchdog offices — six fewer than the so-called “accountability officers” had requested.
As deliberations wrapped up Wednesday night with the watchdog jobs one of few flashpoints, Tory characterized his debut budget as “not too hot, not too cold” but “just right.”
“I think we achieved the balance that we are expected to achieve,” Tory said. “I think we’ve found a budget . . . which hits that sweet spot between excessive tax increases, which this does not do, and a gutting of public services, which this does not do.”
But several councillors were unsettled about the challenge ahead. Council opted to have the city borrow from itself to help plug up an $86-million shortfall in the $9.973-billion operating budget, while keeping taxes below the rate of inflation — 2.75 per cent including the Scarborough subway levy.
Council also approved an 8 per cent water rate increase, and for a 3 per cent increase for garbage collection, while reducing the single family residential rebates for waste bins, effective April 1. “I think I would say, not hot, not cold, not bad,” Councillor Janet Davis (open Janet Davis's policard), a council progressive, said Wednesday night.
After the vote, Councillor Shelley Carroll (open Shelley Carroll's policard), budget chief under former mayor David Miller, said she is already concerned about next year’s budget.
“TTC alone has an opening pressure for 2016 of $71 million, not including any wage increases and any upward change in fuel prices,” Carroll said. “I wouldn’t call it satisfied. I’m very concerned.”
The budget was passed largely as recommended by the budget and executive committees, with several last-minute motions gaining approval with the blessing of budget chief Gary Crawford (open Gary Crawford's policard).
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Crawford said. “We have to take the discipline, the work that we’ve done over the past couple of months, and start applying that to not only next year but the next three years.”
“When you’re looking at some of the investments that we’ve created — over $100 million in investments going into the city in transit, in poverty reduction, safety, infrastructure, yeah, I think it’s an absolute win, because we’ve kept property taxes low and that was one of the goals we wanted to do at the very beginning.”
Ombudsman Fiona Crean, who has ruffled city hall feathers with several hard-hitting reports, said in an interview after the vote she asked for six extra staff last August when being hit with a “double whammy” — an “astronomical” increase in citizen complaints about city staff conduct, plus council adding city-run corporations and TTC special constables to her jurisdiction. Takis Galiatsos SNP