Toronto's budget protects City services and supports residents and businesses



    
    Budget reflects the role of City government and responds to economic
    outlook
    

    TORONTO, Feb. 10 /CNW/ - The City of Toronto today introduced a 2009
operating budget that protects City services and provides help to those who
need it most.
    The proposed budget reflects the 24 hour/7 day role that City government
has in the protection of residents and provision of services. Local government
provides the services that have the greatest impact on the quality of life in
the city and therefore the budget that pays for those services must be
supported with the investments required to continue their operation. This is
especially important as the City works to meet the challenges of the downturn
in the Canadian and world economies. The City's budget must also make
carefully considered new investments to enhance existing programs and services
to respond to the changing needs of the community that the Toronto government
will serve in 2009. The budget provides critical support to residents through
tax help programs for eligible seniors and low income households and directs
funding to programming for job seekers, youth and seniors.
    The operating budget also proposes some important new investments in key
areas such as transit, community health and wellness, public spaces, customer
service, civic engagement and combating climate change. The City's investment
in these key areas is $23.5 million and provides the City with a $94 million
total benefit as the City's investment is partnered with other governments.
Highlights include:

    
    -  Improving transit service across the city through the TTC Ridership
       Growth Strategy
    -  Making the Streets to Homes program permanent
    -  Adding 35 new or enhanced programs for at-risk groups including
       seniors, youth, women and aboriginal youth in priority neighbourhoods
    -  Opening the City's new 311, 24-hour customer service contact centre
    -  Reducing wait times for EMS paramedics by adding nursing shifts in
       hospital emergency rooms
    -  Maintaining snow clearing and removal service
    -  Increasing the hours at Toronto Public Libraries under the self-
       service project
    -  Increasing the number of recreation programs at various community
       centres
    -  Rolling out 3,500 pieces of new street furniture
    -  Opening 70 km of additional bike lanes
    -  Increasing the City's tree canopy through increased plantings and
       maintenance
    -  Opening new and upgraded parks and playgrounds
    

    The announcement of the proposed 2009 operating budget is in addition to
the capital budget program that Council approved last December, which will
invest $25.9 billion over the next 10 years, creating or protecting 35,000
jobs this year and more than 300,000 over the next 10 years. In addition, the
City is considering a freeze of TTC fares, development charges and waste
collection fees in 2009.
    "This is a critical time for our city," said Mayor David Miller. "We must
protect the services and programs our residents and businesses have come to
rely upon. This is especially important during a period of worldwide economic
instability when our community will need City programs more than ever."
    "The proposed budget maintains services and invests in the right areas,"
said Chair of the Budget Committee, Councillor Shelley Carroll. "Now is not
the right time to cut programs and services. Instead, now is the time to
direct our limited resources to the areas that can have the greatest impact
during difficult times."
    After factoring in growth in the City's tax assessment, the City will
raise an additional 2.5% from property taxes for a total of $83 million.
Residential taxpayers will contribute $57 million of this increase and
non-residential taxpayers will contribute $26 million. A 4% property tax
increase on residential properties will mean an annual increase of $89 on a
home with an assessed value of $387,000.
    The continued reduction of business property taxes is part of Toronto
City Council's plan to enhance Toronto's business climate and is in addition
to specific programs that the City has to support business such as Tax
Increment Equivalent Grants, the Better Building Partnership, Energy Reduction
Loan Program and the Heritage Incentives Capital Grant and Tax Rebate
Programs.
    The proposed budget includes user fee inflationary increases of
approximately 3.7% for many programs, that currently include a fee to offset
part of the cost of delivering a program or renting a facility. For example,
the fee for a 12 week adult aquatic pass is going up $3.50 (from $94.50 to
$98). User fees in 2009 will account for $396.3 million of the City's revenues
and the proposed increase provides the City with $6.6 million in additional
revenue to pay part of the cost of programs. User fees make up 15% of the
City's total revenues. User fees do not cover the full cost of providing
programs. A full list of all proposed user fee increases is available at
www.toronto.ca/budget2009
    The proposed budget contains no rate increases to either the Land
Transfer Tax (LTT) or Personal Vehicle Tax (PVT).
    A key part of the proposed 2009 operating budget is the enhancement of
programs that provide for the cancellation or deferral of property tax
increases for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities.
    Under the Property Tax Increase Cancellation Program, property tax
increases for low-income seniors or persons with disabilities may be
cancelled. In 2009, eligibility for the program will increase as the annual
household income threshold rises from $26,000 to $30,000 per year and the
assessment ceiling goes from $454,000 to $525,000. This enhancement to the
program means that the number of eligible households will increase 20% over
2008.
    Under the Property Tax Increase Deferral Program, property tax increases
for low income seniors or persons with disabilities may be deferred. In 2009,
eligibility for the program will also increase as the annual household income
threshold is increased from less than $40,000 to just under $50,000. This
program enhancement will mean that the number of eligible households will
increase 35% over 2008.
    The City also has a water rate rebate for low-income seniors and persons
with disabilities.
    Details on how to make an application under these programs will be
announced when the final property tax bills are mailed to residents.
    At the introduction of the proposed 2009 operating budget today, Mayor
David Miller requested the City Manager to brief City Council quarterly on the
key economic indicators that reflect how the City is performing and recommend
the appropriate adjustments to the City's budget to ensure the City responds
quickly to any changes in forecasted revenues or expenses.
    "The programs and services the City provides demonstrate the value of
public service to our community," said Toronto City Manager Joe Pennachetti.
"The Toronto Public Service will continue to deliver the quality services
which residents and businesses expect and will do so with the flexibility and
compassion that the current economic situation demands."
    "The City's proposed budget accounts for the recession and is therefore
focused on protecting existing programs and services," said Acting Deputy City
Manager and Chief Financial Officer Cam Weldon. "As well, the City is
committed to continuing the business tax reduction program."
    The proposed operating budget for 2009 totals $8.7 billion. 32% of the
City's budget pays the costs of provincially required and cost-shared
programs. 17% of the budget goes to providing residents and businesses with
police, fire and emergency medical services and 16% of the total budget is
dedicated to paying the part of transit not covered by TTC fare box revenue.
14% of the proposed budget is directed to the costs of other municipal
services such as parks, forestry and recreation, libraries, road maintenance,
snow removal, economic development, planning, and municipal licensing and
standards.
    As part of the operating budget review process, more than $100 million
was identified in the base budget as savings from internal efficiencies and
continuous improvement efforts by the City. The $100 million reduction has
been put toward offsetting the 2009 budget increases.
    The City's revenues are made up of property taxes (39%), provincial
government payments to the City that pay part of the costs for provincially
supported programs (24%), user fees (15%), federal subsidies and grants (2%)
and other revenues. The Land Transfer and Personal Vehicle Tax will make up 2%
of the City's total revenues in 2009.
    Toronto, like all municipalities in Ontario, must fund the full costs of
providing services in the year that they are provided. Municipalities, unlike
the provincial or federal government, cannot run a deficit to pay the cost of
day-to-day operations.
    Today is the start of the formal operating budget review process. The
public is invited to make submissions on the City's proposed operating budget
by making a presentation to the Budget Committee on Wednesday, February 18,
submitting a written presentation to the Budget Committee, or sending a letter
or e-mail to their local City Councillor. Details can be found at
http://www.toronto.ca/committees/budget-committee.htm or by calling
416-338-0338. Toronto City Council will consider the final 2009 operating
budget at its meeting on March 31 and April 1.
    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 (described above) - the money dedicated to salaries and
operating expenses such as rent, fuel, electricity, equipment, etc. The
delivery of City services such as police, fire, emergency medical services,
TTC, libraries, parks and recreation, snow removal, roads maintenance, child
care and many others are paid for through the City's operating budget.
    The City is also rolling out its 10-year $25.9 billion capital plan that
was approved last December. 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 capital budget
funds the maintenance and construction of City assets and infrastructure,
which are needed to support services to residents and businesses.
    For more information on the programs and services provided in the City's
2009 proposed operating budget please visit the City's budget web pages at
www.toronto.ca/budget2009.
    The City has also created the Toronto Helps web pages that highlight new
and enhanced programs and services for people needing assistance during the
recession. The webpage address is www.toronto.ca/torontohelps.

    Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home
to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine
of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America.
In the past three years, Toronto has won numerous awards for quality,
innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto's government
is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

    
                     Visit our website at www.toronto.ca


                                                                 Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

               The 2009 Recommended Operating Budget Highlights
                          New and Enhanced Services

    The following highlights projects included in the 2009 Recommended
Operating Budget. These projects are listed by theme.

    Public Transit

    -  Make all parts of the City, including the priority neighbourhoods,
       more accessible by continuing service increases introduced in 2008
       through the Ridership Growth Strategy (RGS)
          -  Annualized cost for serving 464 million riders ($7.413M gross
             and net)
          -  Annualized cost to operate 100 extra buses (99,000 hours
             annually) ($7.700M gross and net)
          -  Full year rollout of standardized bus hours (+297,000 hours
             annually) all routes have same hours as subway, 6 am to 1 am
             weekdays ($21.000M gross and net)
          -  2009 Service to meet record demand of 473 million riders,
             including reliability improvements to the 501 Queen St. route
             (+136,000 hours in 2009; $13.006M gross and net)
    -  Improve the flow of TTC vehicles and reduce short turns with 20 new
       route supervisors ($1.735M gross and net)
    -  Introduce next vehicle notification, automated customer notification,
       e-commerce and internet trip planning ($0.448M gross and net)
    -  Establish green procurement practices ($0.875M gross and net)

    Climate Change

    -  Implement the Mayor's Tower Renewal Strategy ($0.580M gross and net)
    -  Continue "Live Green Toronto" ($4.600M gross, $0.800M net)
    -  Continue the Climate Change Adaptation strategy ($0.505M gross,
       $0 net)
    -  Maintain and increase urban forest to increase tree canopy from 17% to
       34% by 2050 with new funding in 2009 for:
       -  Tree maintenance ($3.853M gross, $1.570M net)
       -  Tree protection ($0.686M gross, $0 net)
       -  Planting new trees ($1.605M gross, $0 net)
    -  Open 70km of additional bike lanes; increase the number of bike
       stations and bicycle lockers ($0.210M gross, $0 net)
    -  Promote an Idle Free Campaign for the City's Fleet ($0.632M gross
       savings in 2009)

    Public Spaces

    -  Provide overall operations at Union Station including 24/7 security
       ($13.182M gross, $0 net)
    -  Roll out 3,500 pieces of street furniture ($5.505M gross, $0 net)
    -  Make progress on Toronto's waterfront - construction of Phase 1 of
       Lake Ontario Park, construction activities in the East Bayfront, West
       Don Lands and the Central Waterfront ($1.597M gross,
       $1.012M net)

    Open and maintain new and upgraded parks, playgrounds, and pathways
($0.775M gross and net):

    New 2009
    --------
       -  Wychwood Community Park
       -  Ashbridges Skateboard Park
       -  Flemmingdon Sports Field

    Upgrades for 2009
    -----------------
       -  Megan Park
       -  Morning Side Splashpad
       -  Campbell Avenue Playground

    Community Health & Wellness

    -  Enhanced Streets to Homes program ($4.6M gross, $4.1M net)
    -  Sustain Community Partnership and Investment Program by funding
       inflationary pressures ($0.849 gross and net)
    -  Expand the Student Nutrition Program to serve an additional 5,644
       elementary children and 3,147 youth from the 78,000 children and
       12,750 youth served in 2008 ($0.400M gross and net)
    -  Additional 12 new, 24 enhanced programs for at-risk groups including
       youth, seniors, women, and aboriginal youth in priority neighbourhoods
       ($0.600M gross and net)
    -  Improve access to employment opportunities, training and skills
       development through newly developed local employment service hubs
       ($2.019M gross, $0 net)
    -  Implement additional nursing shifts in hospital emergency rooms to
       reduce wait times by EMS paramedics ($1.945M gross, $0 net)
    -  Expand the Children in Need of Treatment Dental Program to 18 years of
       age ($5.253M gross, $0 net)
    -  Implement the Youth Gang Prevention Pilot Project ($1.5M gross,
       $0 net)
    -  Increase open hours at Toronto Public Libraries by 67.5 hours per week
       on weekdays once the implementation of Self-Service for Expanding Open
       Hours capital project is completed in 2009 ($0 gross and net)
    -  Increase the number of recreation programs at various community
       centres ($1.071M gross and net)

    Creative City

    -  Celebrate the 175th anniversary of the City of Toronto ($0.230M gross
       and net)
    -  Commission a stand-alone monumental art project for City Hall to
       attract international tourists to Nuit Blanche ($0.3M gross and net)

    Foster the development of "Creative Toronto" ($0.070M gross and $0.020M
    net) by:

       -  Partnering with the Martin Prosperity Institute on a major
          gathering of international thinkers to explore the connection
          between place, creativity and the economy
       -  Partnering with Toronto Artscape to organize an international
          conference to explore the concept of the "Collaborative City"

    Public Access & Accountability

    -  Open the 311 Customer Services 24-hour call centre in June 2009
       ($1.638M gross and net)
    -  Expand court capacity by 6 additional courtrooms from 25 to 31
       courtrooms, and increase the number of new trials by 180,000 ($3.725M
       gross, $0.705M net))
    -  Finalize the set up of the Lobbyist Registrar's Office ($0.217M gross
       and net) and the Office of the Ombudsman ($0.604M gross and net)
    -  Establish the Office of Civic Engagement ($0.114M gross and net) to
       increase representation of diverse communities in the City's decision-
       making process


                     Visit our website at www.toronto.ca
    




For further information:

For further information: Media contacts: Don Wanagas
(dwanagas@toronto.ca) Director, Communications, Office of Mayor David Miller,
(416) 338-7134; Jennifer Daws (jdaws@toronto.ca) Executive Assistant to
Councillor Carroll, Chair of Budget Committee, (416) 392-4037; Kevin Sack
(ksack@toronto.ca) Director, Strategic Communications, (416) 397-5277, (416)
919-6500 (cell)


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