Jun 11

City looking at 10% budget reduction

The Toronto Star’s Paul Moloney:

City departments that struggled to meet directives to slash 5 per cent of their annual budgets are now being ordered to double that, for a total cut equivalent to Toronto’s entire parks and recreation budget.

Cutting 10 per cent would save $375.9 million and go halfway toward filling the $774 million gap in the 2012 operating budget.

via City ponders the 10% solution – thestar.com.

This is going to be a bloodbath. Asking departments who just cut their budgets by 5% this year to look at a further cut of 10% is more than a little insane. We’re not a city with a declining population or a stagnant economy. We’re a city that enjoys low property tax rates compared to 905 municipalities and has been getting screwed by a bad financial relationship with the provincial government for more than a decade now.

We’re also a city that should be continuously looking to find ways to save money and create efficiencies, of course. The problem with this administration is that the Rob Ford campaign estimated that there were $230 million in potential savings immediately available in the city’s operating budget. Since taking office, they’ve only been able to identify a small fraction of that figure.

Bright side: Mike Del Grande seems committed to maintaining the land transfer tax. Without it, the city’s budget gap for 2012 would be more than a billion dollars. The Toronto Real Estate Board is mad about this. Duh.

Feb 11

Developers hopeful that new mayor will let them do whatever they want

Robyn Doolitte at the Toronto Star moved over to the Homes section this weekend, writing a report on the city’s development industry, and their hope that Rob Ford will just let them do whatever the hell they want:

Although he offered few specifics, Ford’s campaign rhetoric struck a sympathetic tone towards builders. Ford said Section 37 fees, which allows the city to be flexible with height and density requirements in exchange for community benefits, were tantamount to “extortion.”

He also vowed to abolish the land transfer tax and speed up the approvals process since, “time is money.”

via Developers are buzzing with optimism – Yourhome.ca.

Rob Ford is not really an ideological conservative. He just surrounds himself with ideological conservatives. And he happens to be very receptive to people and organizations who tell them they’re being screwed over by governments.

But, c’mon, acting like developers have been treated poorly over the past decade in this city is goddamned ridiculous. The dozens of cranes dotting the city skyline don’t speak to an industry that’s barely been scraping by under the weight of city bureaucracy, taxes and red tape.

How anyone can look at the numbers both before and after the implementation of the Municipal Land Transfer Tax and argue that it hurt real estate in this city is beyond me. Similarly, those who make the simplistic argument that development charges and fees will simply be passed on to consumers demonstrate a lack of understanding as to how the market works. (Here’s a hint: developers already charge as much as the market will bear for their condos and homes.)

Related to this is a John Lorinc story for the Globe, where he points out that it’s probably reasonable to expect more big box developments in the city over the next four years.