First balanced budget since amalgamation protects services and invests in priorities



    TORONTO, Jan. 28 /CNW/ - This year, for the first time since
amalgamation, the City of Toronto's staff recommended operating budget was
introduced as balanced.
    The 2008 recommended Operating Budget protects existing services and
contains important new investments in the City's highest priorities.
    "This is a tremendous achievement for the City," said Toronto Mayor David
Miller. "Building a City that is liveable and provides prosperity and
opportunity for everyone is the most important role of local government. This
budget allows us to start to make the kinds of investments Torontonians want
and deserve. As a government, we have made difficult decisions over the past
several months and are now starting to turn the corner," said Mayor Miller.
    At the introduction of the Operating Budget, the Chair of Budget
Committee, Councillor Shelley Carroll said, "A balanced recommended budget
demonstrates our ability to contain costs and ensure our spending is focused
in those areas that have the greatest impact on the quality of life in
Toronto."
    The recommended Operating Budget includes a recommended property tax
increase of 3.75% and a recommended non-residential property tax increase of
1.25%.
    The City's total $8.2 billion recommended Operating Budget leverages
partnerships with other governments to deliver a total of $53.4 million in new
investment to support City priorities. This total new investment is made
possible through an investment by the City of $12.4 million. Highlights
include:

    
    -   Providing improved public transit through the Ridership Growth
        Strategy which will see 100 new buses on the road to relieve
        peak-period congestion, enhanced off-peak service and investments in
        the cleanliness and appearance of subway stations
    -   Meeting our commitment to reduce the waste that goes to landfill
        through investments that ensure the City reaches the 70% diversion
        target by 2010 and expansion of the Green Bin program
    -   Delivering on the City's plan to fight climate change through
        initiatives such as Live Green Toronto
    -   Keeping Toronto Clean and Beautiful through increased neighbourhood
        beautification project funding, clean-up of orphan spaces and
        improvement of public spaces through new street furniture
    -   Delivering on the vision for a new waterfront - 2008 will see the
        opening of new waterfront parkland and facilities
    -   Strengthening one of Toronto's key cultural events by expanding Nuit
        Blanche to more locations
    -   Investing in communities and keeping a safe city safer by providing
        funding to the Community Partnership Investment Program that keeps
        pace with inflation and increase the support given to the very
        effective Streets-to-Homes initiative to help people living on the
        street find and keep permanent housing
    -   Staying the course on improving Toronto's business climate through
        investment in an international centre for Financial Services Training
        and the Financial Services Information Technology Innovation
        Initiative and establish green economic sector development
        initiatives in targeted areas
    -   To keep up with Toronto's rapid growth and maintain healthy and
        vibrant neighbourhoods the City will add additional planners to
        support community and transportation planning, heritage preservation
        and support good quality urban design.
    

    Toronto City Manager Shirley Hoy said, "The Toronto Public Service
continues to perform well as the City compares very favourably to other
service providers. Cost containment measures in 2007, which were carried over
into budget planning for 2008, transitional provincial funding for TTC
operating costs and the start of some uploading of provincial costs and the
new taxes has all combined to assist the City address what are our biggest
financial challenges."
    Toronto's Chief Financial Officer and Deputy City Manager, Joe
Pennachetti said, "The upload of the costs for social services is required to
ensure Toronto continues to use all the revenues we directly collect to fund
municipal services and we will continue to focus the discussion with the
province to ensure this happens."
    The City continues to work together with other Ontario municipalities and
the province to resolve basic funding problems in provincially mandated
cost-shared programs that are not adequately funded. In addition, Toronto and
all of Canada's municipalities continue to seek a source of revenue that grows
when the economy grows - the equivalent of one cent of the GST (onecentnow.ca)
and the establishment of a national strategy to support public transit in
Canada. These measures are needed if Toronto is to balance its budget in the
future.
    Budget Committee will begin its review of the Operating Budget on
February 4 and will hear deputations from the public on February 5. At the
conclusion of the review by Budget Committee the Operating Budget goes to the
City's Executive Committee on March 25 and then to Toronto City Council at its
meeting scheduled for March 31 and April 1.
    The public can learn more about city services and how they are paid for
and find out how to make a deputation or comment on the City's budget by
visiting the City's website at www.toronto.ca. Public deputations will take
place at Budget Committee on February 5, 2007. To engage residents and
businesses in the budget process, the City has prepared a dedicated budget
website and a public outreach poster campaign that will appear in free City
transit shelter and street bins.
    The City has both an operating and capital budget.
    The day-to-day operation of City services is paid for from the City's
operating budget - the money dedicated to salaries and operating expenses such
as rent, fuel, electricity, equipment, etc. The City, like everyone else, must
pay the increased costs of fuel and electricity and other services when these
costs rise. The delivery of City services such as police, fire, emergency
medical services, TTC, waste collection and recycling, libraries, parks and
recreation, child care and many others are paid for through the City's
Operating Budget.
    The 2008 Capital Budget of $1.610 billion was approved by Council last
December and is part of an $8.355 billion Five-Year Capital Plan (2008-2012).
The City's capital budget pays for construction and maintenance of roads, the
purchase of transit vehicles, the building of major facilities, and the
purchase of major equipment. The budget funds the maintenance and construction
of City assets and infrastructure, which are needed to support service to
residents and businesses.

    
                     Visit our website at www.toronto.ca
    





For further information:

For further information: Media contact: Stuart Green, Deputy Director,
Communications, Office of Mayor David Miller, (416) 338-7119; Ryan Merkley,
Executive Assistant to Councillor Carroll, Chair of Budget Committee, (416)
392-4037; Kevin Sack, Director, Strategic Communications, City of Toronto,
(416) 397-5277; Cindy Bromley, Manager, Finance Communications, City of
Toronto, (416) 392-4993


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