Friday, June 21, 2013
Toronto takes $150 million budget hit from Queen's Park cut
Ford demanded Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government reverse a decision to deliver a potentially crippling funding cut to the city over the next three years starting with a $50-million drop in the 2014 budget.
In a face-to-face meeting with Sousa set for Monday, Ford said he’ll be telling him bluntly: “I want the $50 million.”
Sousa advised the mayor’s office of the cut in a letter sent last week. City officials had been planning for that money staying in the budget until at least 2018 and pointed to a 2008 letter from the provincial finance ministry detailing the funding phase-out.
“This decision comes as a complete surprise to me and the city and we are very, very concerned,” Ford said at a press conference. “These are vital, vital funds that we need to continue helping our most vulnerable residents.”
The city allocates that funding to its social housing programs and would require a roughly 5% property tax hike or massive budget cuts to fill the hole.
“This money will have to come from cuts to vital programs. I am not increasing taxes over what I promised, 1.75% (in 2014),” Ford said. “It is going to come down to program cuts, unfortunately. It’s the province’s fault — the province hasn’t given us the money. Ask Premier Wynne why she’s doing this.”
The mayor had been gearing up to cut the Toronto land transfer tax by 10% this year. Ford said Friday he’s still cutting the tax and urged Wynne and Sousa to get their house in order.
“They’ve got to find efficiencies,” said Ford, who is still optimistic there will be a successful resolution to the money squabble. “They’re squandering billions of dollars up there ... they’ve got a spending problem not a revenue problem. We’ve put our house in order down here.”
Sousa didn’t show any signs of reversing the cut Friday and denied the province had committed to the funding back in 2008.
“They’re not being left in the lurch,” he said.
The city knew that the province would phase out the funding as it uploaded other costs to the net benefit of Toronto of more than $700 million, Sousa said.
In addition to taking on a greater share of social service and court security costs, the province is forgiving a $200-million loan to the city which has so far missed 16 scheduled repayments.
“There’s only one taxpayer and if the mayor feels that it’s appropriate for other levels of government to increases taxes so that he can say he didn’t, I’m not for that,” Sousa said.
But Councillor Paula Fletcher said Ford’s been sending a message from city hall that “we really don’t need any money” by cutting the car tax and looking at cutting the land transfer tax.
“We have given the impression that we’re not interested in funding,” Fletcher said. “I think that’s a bad impression to be giving — we need this money.”
Ford fired back he’s doing what voters want him to do.
“Taxpayers elected me to get rid of that $60 car tax, I did exactly that,” he said. “I’m doing what I was elected to do and that is reduce the size and cost of government and keep taxes low.”
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