City budgets start to unlock gridlock: Mayor

With Eglinton Division as a backdrop, and a day after City Council approved Toronto’s budgets, Mayor John Tory and TTC Chair Mike Colle declared on March 12 “this city budget is a transit budget” with the most significant investment in the TTC in recent memory.

With Eglinton Division as a backdrop, and a day after City Council approved Toronto’s budgets, Mayor John Tory and TTC Chair Mike Colle declared on March 12 “this city budget is a transit budget” with the most significant investment in the TTC in recent memory.

The City budgets were approved by a 42-2 Council vote on March 11, which included $90-million for the TTC to enhance service and reduce wait times and overcrowding.

“With this budget we’re going to get Toronto moving, we’re going to put families first and we’re going to keep taxes low all the while maintaining the city’s fiscal health,” Tory said. “Families will have more money in their pockets with a property tax below the rate of inflation and kids riding free on the TTC.”

Here’s how the additional funding will enhance services for TTC riders:

  • Restoration of all-day, everyday bus service that was cut in 2011.
  • 10-minute or better bus and streetcar service on key routes from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., six days a week (9 a.m. on Sundays).
  • Reduced wait times and crowding at off-peak times.
  • Reduced wait times and crowding on 21 of the busiest routes during morning and afternoon rush hours.
  • Proof-of-payment and all-door boarding on all streetcar routes.
  • Expansion of the Express Bus network, adding four new routes to a network that serves 34 million rides annually.
  • Expanding the Blue Night Network, adding 12 routes to the 22-route network that serves four million rides annually.
  • Adding up to two additional subway trains on Lines 1 and 2 during morning and afternoon rush hours.
  • Route management improvements designed to reduce short-turns, bunching and gapping of bus and streetcar routes.
  • Additional resources to focus on subway reliability around signals, track and communications systems.

“These are investments and improvements to the service that customers will see nearly immediately and over the course of the year,” Colle said. “This budget signifies the commitment in public transit and commitment in the TTC.”

The Mayor and Chair were joined by City Budget Chair Gary Crawford and Economic Development and Culture Committee Chair Michael Thompson.

City Council approves 2015 Operating Budget and 2015-2024 Capital Budget and Plan

The following news release was issued by the City of Toronto on March 11, 2015:

Toronto City Council has approved the 2015 rate and tax supported operating budget of $11.4 billion and 10-year capital budget and plan of $31.7 billion. The 2015 budgets make significant investments in key strategic priorities for the City’s future, including transit, poverty reduction and public safety. The budget continues to strengthen the City’s fiscal health and for the third year in a row, the budget was balanced without the use of the prior year’s surplus.

“Today, City Council approved a budget that is focused on getting Toronto moving, putting families first and keeping taxes low,” said Mayor John Tory. “This budget makes important new investments in services and infrastructure, while keeping the residential budget tax increase at 2.25% – less than the rate of inflation – which will help Toronto families.”

“This fiscally prudent budget balances the need to invest in our city, while keeping property tax increases to a minimum,” said Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest), Chair of the City’s Budget Committee. “As we’ve shown in this process, we will continue the disciplined approach to balancing the budget in 2016.”

“Overall, the total 2015 budget tax increase after assessment growth is 1.5%, with a 2.25% increase for residential properties and a 0.75% increase for non-residential properties, in keeping with Council’s tax policy to continue to reduce business taxes in Toronto,” said City Manager Joe Pennachetti.

Residents will pay an additional 0.5% to fund the Scarborough Subway. As part of the City’s overall strategy to enhance Toronto’s business climate, there will be an additional increase of 0.45% for residential properties. Therefore, the total municipal tax increase is 3.2% or $83.19, which means the average house assessed at $524,833 will pay $2,679 in 2015. The total tax increase for non-residential properties, which includes rental apartments, is 0.48%.

The budget also includes a strategy for the City to permanently deal with the loss of the revenue to fund social housing in a responsible and prudent manner. This strategy will spread the budget impacts of the funding shortfall over the next four years to allow time for the City to identify budget adjustments and to mitigate costs. For 2015, this means an additional $25 million in budget savings with no impact to City services.

“The major investments that are outlined in this year’s budgets align with the City’s strategic actions by providing additional funding to improve the city’ s transportation network, reduce poverty and strengthen our emergency services, while maintaining the City’s fiscal health,” said Rob Rossini, Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer.

The 2015 Operating Budget maintains all current programs and services and provides funding for new and enhanced services, including:

  • $39 million in transit service improvements funded by a 10-cent fare increase including the child fare elimination (two to 12 years of age), 50 new buses to implement new express routes and reduce overcrowding, improved subway services and expanded overnight bus and streetcar service
  • $25 million for poverty reduction including new shelter beds, increases to the student nutrition program, additional funding for childcare subsidies, enhanced shelter warming centres during weather events and expansion of priority centres
  • 56 new paramedic services positions and an additional 25 fire prevention officers
  • additional positions for City Planning to carry out heritage and area studies, and
  • increased City funding for tree planting.

City Council also approved a 2015-2024 tax and rate supported Capital Budget and Plan of $31.7 billion. The 10-Year Capital Plan continues to advance the City’s long-term fiscal plan objectives and focuses on infrastructure rehabilitation.

“The approved budget and plan includes $3 billion in new capital investments for transportation and public transit, facilities and shelter and technology,” said Josie LaVita, Executive Director Financial Planning.

The 2015-2024 Capital Budget and Plan also includes:

  • $970 million for the rehabilitation of the F.G. Gardiner Expressway, including an increase of $443.2 million to accelerate projects to reduce traffic and user impacts by an estimated eight years
  • investments in traffic control (RESCU) and traffic congestion management through intelligent transportation systems initiatives
  • the purchase of 60 new subway cars, 810 new 40-foot diesel buses and 195 low-car accessible light rail vehicles for the TTC fleet for replacement and ridership growth
  • New McNicoll bus garage and completion of the Toronto Rocket Storage Yard
  • A total of $627 million for Parks, Forestry and Recreation to address the state-of-good-repair backlog over the next 10 years, and
  • Construction of new fire and paramedic services stations.

At its meeting, City Council also approved the rate supported budgets for Solid Waste Management Services, Toronto Water and the Toronto Parking Authority.

Solid Waste Management Services’ approved budget includes a rate increase of 3% as of April 1, which equates to a 2.25% increase for 2015. In addition, the Solid Waste rebate was reduced by $18 million as part of the tax supported budget, which will result in a rebate change for single family customers based on garbage bin size (see Fact Sheet for details http://bit.ly/1MsCi4N). As a result, small bin customers will now pay $10.63 per year (increase of $3.91), medium bin customers will pay $88.73 per year (increase of $32.64), large bin customers will pay $247.39 per year (increase of $91) and extra large bin customers will pay $343.60 per year (increase of $126.39). This change is a first step in establishing a sustainable full user-pay program that improves waste diversion.

Toronto Water’s rate supported budget focuses on providing high quality drinking water and wastewater services while dealing with the impact of extreme weather, aging infrastructure and the need to provide ongoing customer service enhancements. City Council approved an 8% water rate increase as of March 13, which equates to a 6.5% increase for 2015 (a $54 increase compared with 2014 for the average Toronto household using 280 cubic metres). The 10-year $11 billion capital plan includes more than $8.2 billion in spending on state of good repair, basement flooding protection, storm water management and improving the City’s resiliency to extreme weather./p>

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