Councillors speak about 2008 budget proposal

The members of the budget committee, Ward 43 Councillor Paul Ainslie and Ward 27 Councillor Kyle Rae

The members of the budget committee, Ward 43 Councillor Paul Ainslie and Ward 27 Councillor Kyle Rae, are having a discussion during the review of the Operating Budget on Feb. 4.

Ward 44 Councillor Ron Moeser is not in favour of the new budget proposal because it includes a property tax increase of almost four per cent for homeowners.

But despite his misgivings, he believes the hike is inevitable and the city is going to have to live with it.

“I was disappointed that the tax increase happened. People were outraged,” Moeser said. “But I also realized that we have a huge infrastructure.”

An infrastructure currently needing about $30-billion to completely repair.

One of the main reasons for a tax increase is the three per cent increase in wages for police officers and fire fighters, and the demand for new employees in these fields, officials say.

“We hired 500 police officers in the last few years,” said Ward 38 Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker. “The only way we can pay for them is by getting money from people through property tax.”

Some Scarborough councillors support the budget proposal. They say members of the budget committee were responsible and this budget was one of the best in the last decade.

“I think a 3.75 per cent tax increase is pretty reasonable,” De Baeremaeker said. “In this budget next year, we will create a better transit system, a better recycling system, improved garbage pick-up and clean parks.

“Not only do we maintain the current services that we have, we will demonstrate to the public that Toronto is one of the best places to live in.”

Ward 43 Councillor Paul Ainslie, a member of the budget committee, says “people are happy about the budget increase as long as the city of Toronto improves public services in library facilities, 24-hour bus services and fire trucks.”

On the other hand, the public does not have confidence in the way politicians do their work, Moeser believes, suggesting city hall desperately needs to review how it should keep transparency in the political system.

Some local reaction was negative.

“I believe that services are going down and money is not spent properly,” said Naseer Khalid, who lives near Sheppard Avenue. “If public services are reduced because the money is not enough, the councillors should be liable for those expenses incurred by the public.”