Monday, February 8, 2016
Review Examining Size of Toronto City Council
Under one scenario under consideration, the number of councillors would jump from its current 44 to 58.
A report that examines ward boundary changes in Toronto and how many municipal representatives are needed will be released later this month.
Any changes to the number of councillors and to ward boundaries are expected to be in place for the 2018 municipal election.
According to 2016 city budget numbers, the current average annual cost per councillor is $468,000. Those figures include salary and benefits for the councillors and their staff, as well as office expenses and a small travel budget for each.
The 2016 budget calls for taxpayers to spend $20.9 million on the current lot of 44 councillors.
If council opts to increase the number of councillors to 58, that could cost taxpayers an additional $7.1 million, increasing the council budget to $28 million.
But before that happens, council must choose from the array of potential changes in the boundary review. Here are the options:
Minimal change — 47 councillors with an average ward population of 61,000.
Status quo — 44 councillors with an average ward population of 70,000.
Smaller wards — 58 councillors with an average ward population of 50,000.
Larger wards — 38 councillors with an average ward population of 75,000.
Natural/physical boundaries — 41 councillors with an average ward population of 70,000.
An option to cut council in half, to 22 councillors, was abandoned because it did not have enough public support, according to a report from city staff last year.
If Toronto’s municipal politicians decide to boost the size of council, they’ll have to make a few more choices about staffing levels in each office, city deputy clerk Winnie Li said.
“We do not know what the impact will be if the ward boundary review results in 58 councillors,” she said. “City council will need to make decisions on the various policies on the resources and operations of councillor offices. The outcome of these policy decisions will impact the cost to support councillors.”
Mayor John Tory has been clear since the boundary review was introduced in 2014 that he has not heard an outcry for more politicians. The city’s mayor also has a seat on city council.
“Not one member of the public has said to me, ‘We need more government and more politicians.’ The last thing we need is more politicians,” Tory said last summer. “I think the public wants to see the politicians we already have focus on working together to get things done for Toronto, like building more transit, cutting traffic congestion, building more affordable housing and attracting jobs and investment to the city.”
Councillor Joe Mihevc said he hasn’t made up his mind which option would work best for council. But he doesn’t think cutting the size of council is a good idea.
“I know people in the media or who read the media don’t like to hear it, but we work our butts off,” he insisted. “I’m out every night of the week.”
Mihevc said the current ward boundaries are unevenly distributed, leaving some councillors representing tens of thousands more than others. He noted Councillor Joe Cressy represents more than 100,000 people in Trinity-Spadina (Ward 20), while he tends to 65,000 residents in St. Paul’s (Ward 21).
“That’s not fair,” he said. “So I know I need to have a larger area for my ward.”
Councillor costs by the numbers:
$468,000 — Average annual cost per councillor.
$20.9 million — Total 2016 budget for councillor and staff salaries, expenses and office budgets.
180 — Number of councillors and office staff members covered by that budget.
$181,937 — Mayor’s salary in 2015.
$108,032 — Councillor salary in 2015.
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