The executive committee pushed forward the proposed 2017 $10.5 billion budget on Tuesday, and leaves many in Toronto divided on how satisfied they are with the results.
Here are the highlights:
The budget includes a two per cent increase in residential property taxes, will allocate $80 million more to TTC, and $37 million to Toronto Community Housing. The city will also be providing 200 more shelter beds this year and Mayor John Tory has thrown his support behind supporting more daycare subsidy spots — there are currently 18,000 children on the daycare subsidy waitlist— though provincial aid is needed to help foot the bill. Unfortunately, recreation fees will still be increasing.
Other revenue tools that have been approved include a hotel tax of four per cent (10 per cent for short-term rentals) that is expected to bring in an extra $5.5 million in revenue. There is also a plan to harmonize the Ontario Land Transfer Tax with the Municipal Land Transfer Tax, which is estimated to raise $77 million.
The city will have to use $87.8 million from reserves to make up the rest of the budget.
The property tax hike, hotel, and municipal land-transfer tax were met with criticism by many Toronto citizens because these revenue tools put even more pressure on locals to meet the budget needs of the city. Relying so heavily on the inflated housing market is also an unstable revenue measure because if the housing bubble pops, the municipal land transfer tax and property tax rates could financially destroy homeowners.
Instead of consistently relying on property owners to pay for Toronto’s services year after year, more creative revenue tools need to be adopted in future city budgets. Road tolls, recently shot down by Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals, is a solution that would directly fund transit by charging not only the 905 commuters coming into the city for work every day, but all Torontonian downtown drivers a small fee. Using road tolls as a revenue tool would relieve pressure on property tax hikes and raise much needed funds for transit and community housing that desperately need to be built.
The budget fills gaps on some city services, but falls short of adequately shortening the affordable housing waitlist, not to mention many other items on the agenda that desperately need funding.