Feb 11

2011 budget rich with symbolism, but not much else

The Globe & Mail’s Anna Mehler Paperny:

“The ink’s not even dry on the 2011 budget. I want people to enjoy the zero-per-cent tax increase,” he said, adding only that “we have to go really hard in 2012” to close a budgetary shortfall pegged at $774-million.

The budget braved a raft of attempts to save everything from additional staff for the city ombudsman to $75,000 cut from the tenant defence fund, the soon-to-be-closed Urban Affairs library and cut bus routes.

via Ford says budget has kept his promises – The Globe and Mail.

Over the past two days, councillors approved the 2011 operating and capital budgets with no major amendments. So bus routes are cut. The Urban Affairs Library will close. Conservation programs like rebates for low-flow toilets are gone.

Gord Perks’ motion on the first day, when councillors were debating 2011 tax rates, tells the whole story: this was, essentially, the exact same budget as last year except council used a combination of service cuts and one-time revenues to avoid an inflationary increase to residential property taxes. (Also, so they could cut the vehicle registration tax.)

A small increase (far below inflation) to the amount of revenue brought in by property taxes could have retained all services.

It should be noted that a ‘property tax freeze’ is a totally misleading phrase. If the federal or provincial governments were to freeze income taxes, you’d assume that would mean they’d lock in the percentages in the various tax brackets. Even with frozen income and sales taxes, governments would still realize increased revenues as wages and prices rise with inflation.

Property taxes work in an entirely different way. (For more on this, see this great Dylan Reid piece at Spacing.) By freezing property taxes, the city has forced itself to make do with the exact same pool of tax revenue as they did last year. Despite, you know, everything costing more than it did last year due to inflation.

They crippled themselves.

Feb 11

Toronto Council Curveball: Amendment to budget would retain services

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/ddale8/status/40436998430920704″]

Fresh from Twitter, today’s special council session regarding the 2011 budget kicked off with a bang as Councillor Gord Perks moved a motion that would see a 3.5 million property tax levy. This would retain services — preventing the proposed cuts to public health, bus routes, etc. — and cost the vast majority of taxpayers less than $10 this year.

Shrewd move. It puts Team Ford in the awkward position of having to argue that $10 (or less) per year is an unfair tax burden. But then this is the administration that’s sympathetic to people who whine about having to pay a nickel for a plastic bag.

You can stream council online or follow the #TOCouncil hashtag on Twitter for updates.

UPDATE: And the motion has failed, 18-27. Breakdown on votes will be very interesting.