With Coucillor Gary Crawford
By Gary Crawford
As January comes to a close and February begins, it can only mean one thing – its budget season! This year’s budget process is well underway, as we are currently in the midst of finalizing the City’s 2021 budget.
Before I go into detail about this year’s efforts, I’d like to begin by providing a bit of a backgrounder on the budget process, as a whole to help you understand how your tax dollars support the programs and services that we rely upon on a daily basis.
The City’s overall budget consists of the Operating Budget and the Capital Budget:
- The Operating Budget covers the cost of day-to-day services, including recreational programming, parks maintenance, public health, transit, police and other emergency services. Property taxes support approximately 32% of the operating budget, while the remainder is covered through provincial grants and subsidies, as well as user fees.
- The Capital Budget funds city infrastructure which serves as the foundation to many of the aforementioned day-to-day services. More specifically, this includes the construction and repair of roads, bridges, public buildings (e.g. libraries, community centres and fire stations) and parks. The capital budget is primarily funded from reserves, development charges, provincial and federal funding and borrowed funds. Each year, the City updates and presents a new 10-year capital budget and plan.
- In addition to the capital and operating budgets, there are also three rate supported programs which are funded almost entirely by user fees. These programs are Toronto Water, Solid Waste Management Services and Toronto Parking Authority. Funds are accumulated on the basis of service usage and then flow back into infrastructure projects to support the provision of each respective service.
Each budget process is accompanied by its own unique set of challenges, but this year has been especially difficult due to the economic strain of the ongoing pandemic.
The 2021 budget is a COVID budget having to contend with a greater financial gap due to a variety of COVID-19 related factors, such as reduced user fees (e.g. public transit), the cost of expanded services, (e.g. public health, shelters, enforcement), the continued delivery of regular services and costs associated with developing the infrastructure for a digital economy.
The City’s budget this year is responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic and is responsible in the face of the City’s financial challenges. The City’s demonstrated efforts at keeping costs down and finding savings to preserve service levels while keeping property taxes affordable has been effective in responsibly managing the significant impacts of COVID-19 and the City’s recovery.”
Some highlights from this year’s operating budget include:
- $573 million in savings through mitigation strategies to address the increased budgetary burden resultant of COVID-19
- Provincial and Federal governments support of $740 million has been secured. The City is continuing to work with the other levels of government to secure a total of $1.6 billion
- An inflation-only residential tax increase of 0.7% – now is not the time to be imposing taxes that are not affordable
As for the capital budget, we have continued to invest in Council approved investments, with increased investments in mobility, housing, environment and modernization. We will also maintain a long range capital plan which is affordable and achievable.
Aside from the budget, please continue to follow the most up to date COVID-19 guidelines. We need to do our best to curb the spread of COVID-19 now more than ever. If you observe any instances of non-compliance, please be sure to report them to 311.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you require my assistance. My staff and I will do our best to resolve you concerns.