Toronto City Council Approves 2003 Budget|
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Budget preserves services, keeps debt low and limits tax increase
Toronto City Council completed its review of the City's 2003 budget today,
approving a $6.4 billion operating budget and a net tax levy of $2.85 billion.
The result is a property tax increase of 3% for residential homeowners. The tax
increase will add $56.40 to the property taxes for a home valued at $295,000.
Council also approved a $965 million capital budget that for the most part
maintains the City's assets in a state of good repair.
"This is a budget that our taxpayers can live with", said Mayor Mel Lastman.
"The pressure on our 2003 budget was incredibly high but we are keeping Toronto
a safe and secure city. We found cost savings and efficiencies to keep the tax
increase for Toronto homeowners at the lowest in three years while protecting
and maintaining essential city services."
The $6.4 billion operating budget preserves services at 2002 levels and
responds to the three most significant budget pressures facing Toronto in 2003
- the closure of the Keele Valley landfill, TTC operating costs and salary
settlements above 3% for emergency services. It includes an additional funding
of $30 million for TTC operating costs to avoid another fare increase in 2003
and maintain current service levels.
By managing efficiently, implementing additional cost savings measures,
limiting new programs and adding no new debt, City staff tabled a proposed
budget last December that reflected an increase of less than one per cent in
the total net budgets of almost every department. Even so, the City faced a $95
million shortfall due to the three extraordinary pressures beyond its control.
Budget Advisory Committee and Standing Committee reviews found an additional $9
million in savings. The provincial government contributed $64 million for
transit operations and the remaining shortfall will be offset by using some
surplus funds from 2002 and applying a portion of the Toronto Hydro rate freeze.
"While we appreciate the assistance provided by the province," stated City of
Toronto Budget Chair David Shiner, "Toronto taxpayers cannot continue to seek
these one-time solutions year after year. If these one time funding sources are
not replaced, it will result in basic service cuts next year. Toronto must have
a new, long-term sustainable funding arrangement."
He added, "The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association of
Municipalities of Ontario, the Toronto Dominion Bank, the Toronto Board of
Trade, as well as the City of Toronto have stressed the need for new tools and
a new deal for large municipalities to remain successful in the 21st century.
Toronto is a key economic engine in Ontario and for Canada. We cannot afford to
jeopardize our city's future."
Working on an accelerated budget review timetable, this is the earliest that
City Council has approved its annual budget since amalgamation.
The City of Toronto is the fifth largest city in North America with a
population of 2.5 million. The City's governed population is actually more than
all the Atlantic Provinces combined and is twice that of Manitoba. Only the
governments of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec govern
larger populations than the City of Toronto. The City's annual operating budget
of $6.4 billion is larger than those for the four Atlantic Provinces
Detailed backgrounders on the operating, capital budgets and other information
on the 2003 City Budget are available on the City's Web site at
http://www.toronto.ca by clicking on the City Budget link.