Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Toronto does not have spending problem: Report

A report on Toronto’s finances shows the city isn’t drowning in debt, suffering from a “spending problem” or over-taxing its residents.

But the paper from the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance finds the city is facing a major infrastructure funding shortfall.

Entitled “Is Toronto Fiscally Healthy? A Check-up on the City’s Finances,” the report is being released by the IMFG — part of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs — on Wednesday.

Authors Enid Slack, the director of the IMFG, and Andre Cote, the manager of programs and research, concluded Toronto’s fiscal health is sound at the moment.

“Toronto’s fiscal condition can be likened to the health of an aging Maple Leafs defenceman: He may be a solid performer on the ice and well cared for by training staff, but he is increasingly expensive and in need of major knee surgery,” the paper stated.

“In other words, the City’s fiscal health is sound by most measures, but it faces cost pressures and its aging infrastructure and investment needs present a huge financial challenge.”

The authors say there will be “difficult choices ahead” if the city’s leaders and residents want to “maintain and enhance (Toronto’s) quality of life.”

While Mayor Rob Ford repeatedly claims the city has a spending problem — not a revenue problem — the authors found expenditures are “roughly the same as they were a decade ago” with inflation and population growth factored in.

The authors also concluded Toronto’s tax burden has been falling.

“Toronto residents, on average, pay low property taxes compared with residents of other Ontario cities,” they stated.

They warned that tax freezes or increases below the rate of inflation will “erode services as the city grows.”

The paper also cautioned that the city won’t be able to maintain its infrastructure or build new infrastructure “without new, reliable revenue sources.”
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