City manager says Toronto homeowners could get ‘second tax bill’ due to Ford government cuts
|Toronto Star 14 May 2019 at 14:48|
It won’t be possible to cut nearly $180 million from the city budget in 2019 without affecting services, the city’s manager told Toronto council on Tuesday.
“It will not be achieved through efficiencies without scaling back services,” said Chris Murray.
“You can’t rule out there being a second tax bill.”
Council is meeting today and Wednesday and at the top of the agenda is a report on provincial cuts to funding that city staff have calculated will cost a total of $177.65 million in 2019, including a $65 million reduction to Toronto Public Health; an $84.8 million reduction for Children’s Services and a $24 million reduction from the cancellation of the planned provincial gas tax funding.
The cuts are mostly retroactive to April 1, and will be difficult to implement because half the city’s budget for the year has already been spent, city staff told council.
Murray said going back into the city budget, which was debated and set earlier this year, in order to rebalance it to reflect the provincial funding cuts, is a “unique occurrence.” He was backed up by deputy city manager Giuliana Carbone, who, when asked if she’d seen cuts of this magnitude made retroactively to a city budget, said: “Not in my recollection and I’ve been in government for 30 years.”
Toronto mayor says local MPPs are misleading voters over ‘massive’ provincial cuts
Mayor John Tory held a news conference Tuesday morning before the council meeting began, saying that the provincial cuts were made without regard to the city budget process and risk stalling Toronto’s performance as the “economic engine of Canada.”
Tory asked for council’s support of a motion he drafted, before council today, requesting that the province reverse the cuts.
Since the Progressive Conservative government tabled its budget on April 11, news of funding cuts to provincial programs has trickled out in dribs and drabs, through various agencies.
Tory called it: “Torture by 1,000 cuts.”
Board of Health chair Joe Cressy, told councillors he learned yesterday that the province will cut an additional $20 million from the Toronto Public Health budget next year, on top of the nearly $1 billion in cuts to public health over 10 years that have already been announced. The province disputes the $1 billion figure.
Hayley Chazan, a spokesperson for Christine Elliott, minister of health and long-term care, also disputed Cressy’s new $20 million figure.
“There will be no change to the updated cost-sharing arrangement in 2020-21. As was communicated to Toronto Public Health, any budgetary decisions beyond 2019-20 have not been made yet and will be informed by discussions at the technical working groups, which will launch shortly. To suggest any final decisions have been made about 2020-21 budgets is incorrect and misleading,” said Chazan.
She also disputed city staff figures that peg the cuts to Toronto Public Health by the province at $65 million in 2019.
“Our government has budgeted $114 million in funding for Toronto Public Health this year, an adjustment of $33 million as the cost-sharing funding model shifts to 60 per cent provincial, 40 per cent municipal,” Chazan wrote.
“That said, our government has been clear that we expect all public health units to thoroughly review spending to ensure maximum value for money, just as our government has done provincially. We look forward to working with our municipal partners at the technical workings groups to ensure all levels of government are spending taxpayer dollars responsibly.”
Toronto’s medical officer of health, Eileen de Villa, said lives will be put at risk if public health is underfunded.
Gord McEachen, deputy chief of paramedic services, told council that a new reduction in funding of $3.84 million to Toronto Paramedic Services will increase response times, from 11:45 minutes to 12:05 minutes. The response time is the time paramedic crews can achieve in 90 per cent of cases.
In council, Tory pointed out that when the province cut $150 million from the city’s budget in 2013, the vice-chair of the budget committee was councillor Doug Ford, who is now premier of the province and leader of the Progressive Conservative government imposing the reduction in funding on the city.
“We’ve been prudent managers of the taxpayers’ money, but these folks, the province, wants to come back and put the burden on the back of the hard-working people of Toronto, the residents of Toronto. It’s not fair,” Ford said in 2013.
Also on the council agenda: A motion asking the province to work with the city on the revitalization of Ontario Place.