Taxes here are definitely high. There is a lot we need to get done in the city, and some issues that past decisions have gotten us into, such as the Clair-Maltby expansion have gone to the Ontario tribunal and now we are on the hook for $40.55 million in city utilities set up. Similarly, developments like the police station going over budget by $2.7 million and a $7 million law suit from those developers has a big impact on our development tax budget reserves. It's not as simple as 'make cuts to lower the budget'. We need to rethink how we are planning, and ensure our risk and mitigation processes are robust so we don't end up with all these additional non-productive costs that take away from our service budgets.
We have a large contingency fund that we need to bring out right now.
We do not charge the full amount of developer fees. I delegated on the parkland dedication fees and urged council to raise them to the maximum immediately. They chose to do a two year study instead. So that both costs us money, loses money and removes leverage with developers to negotiate for affordable housing builds.
Federal and Provincial Funding of Services
I’ve been talking with federal and provincial partners about funding paths for transit and discussing with the consortium who handles school busing about absorbing high school students into public transit. Raising ridership gets us more funding to fix our system, so that’s a process approach I want to try. Ultimately though, the province should be completely funding our transit system as they have a much larger budget than we do.
Long Term Gains by Small Spending Now
In the library audit they found most of our money is spent on renting and they urged us to build instead of rent. So the new library, while a .34% increase ($14.95/year) will end up saving us money.
Shifting Service Priorities and Process Change
We should not be widening roads like York Rd and putting that money into safety like traffic lights, crosswalks, stop signs and bike lanes. We need to ban large trucks from using our streets like a highway to lessen our cost in fixing roads. I do project forensics in my job, where I look through budgets and process flows to see where things are going wrong and recommend efficiencies. That’s what I want to do in the city.
I’m sure with additional speed tracking automation we could lessen police budgets in areas like gasoline and vehicle maintenance too. Changing some winter parking bylaws on the edges of the city where plows go last would mean less bylaw officers needed out at night.
Flowers on the boulevard would mean less mowing and we could have those city staff doing community gardens in the parks instead.
The Honest Truth
I would love to lower taxes, and as we grow and have more population to spread the load it may be possible, but I’m not going to promise things I can’t really do. It’s complicated and no one should be pretending it isn’t. I don’t know if it’s possible right now to do a cut, but I think we do need a freeze and a priority shift in our budget. It’s hard to say without reading an updated review of each groups operating budgets. Anyone who says they can cut taxes isn't really thinking through the implications and consequences.