Sunday, August 3, 2014

City of Toronto faces dwindling budget surplus: Report

Toronto council’s number crunchers aren’t betting on a big budget surplus this year.

An update on the 2014 operating budget goes to the budget committee on Wednesday and it predicts a year-end net surplus of $1.2 million. By contrast, the final surplus in 2010 — the year when Mayor Rob Ford swept into office — was $367 million.

Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio said he’s not alarmed by the small surplus prediction.

“My gut feeling is that is a very conservative projection at this point in time,” Di Giorgio said Friday. “My anticipation would be that (the surplus) would be in the neighbourhood of about $150 million.”

It’s predicted that this year’s budgtet will be whittled away as the city contends with declining court services revenue and a predicted $8 million budget shortfall at the TTC.

The report notes there was a 47% drop in the volume of tickets being issued by Toronto Police and other city enforcement agencies in the first five months of this year compared to the same period in 2013. By the end of the year, staff predict a net revenue loss of $27 million.

Once again, the municipal land transfer tax is helping keep the budget on track.

So far this year, the city has brought in $20 million more than expected in land transfer tax revenue. By year’s end, the city is betting on the land transfer tax revenue being $15.1 million over budget.

Although more riders are using Toronto’s transit system this year than last, TTC CEO Andy Byford blamed lower than predicted ridership as the “primary reason” for the budget being $8 million off track.

“The original 2014 year end ridership forecast envisaged 540 million rides. We have now revised that to 537 million,” Byford said.

He said the extreme winter weather, subway closures required to make signal system upgrades and Union Station construction contributed to the reduced number of riders.
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