Toronto City Council has voted 32 to 13 to increase residential property taxes 2.23 per cent for 2014.
Mayor Rob Ford was not the only member of council frustrated by the outcome. Throughout the first day of budget talks at City Hall, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti argued against the budget proposed by the budget committee and argued for his own motion that would not increase property tax in 2014.
Mammoliti said the new budget neglects seniors and fails to provide improved services to the northwest part of Toronto.
“There’s nothing in this budget that talks about seniors,” Mammoliti said. “You can blow your property tax increase out your ear.”
Many residents in Ward 7 — with 38.6 per cent of people over the age of 45 and 14.5 per cent are over 65, according to the 2011 census — cannot afford a tax increase, Mammoliti said.
However, deputy city manager Roberto Rossini pointed to programs that shield low-income seniors and people with disabilities from tax increases.
“This council has passed policies to protect vulnerable peoples like peoples with disabilities and low-income seniors through our cancellation policies,” Rossini said. “Seniors that are in apartment buildings [and] rentals, will actually experience, on average, a tax decrease.”
Mammoliti then criticized the proposed tax hike for improving services in other parts of Toronto — Scarborough in particular — while doing nothing to improve services in his ward.
“In fact, there isn’t an increase in service for the northwest quadrant of the city,” he said. “Ward 7 says enough is enough.”
Mammoliti introduced a motion to leave property tax unchanged in 2014. The council chamber was quickly filled with jeers.
“Councillor Mihevc,” Coun. Mammoliti shot back, “if there was a pool around here I’d ask you to dive in it and go get wet. And if it had no water I’d ask you to dive, Councillor Vaughan.”
As questioning continued Coun. Michelle Berardinetti said a zero per cent tax increase was “completely irresponsible.”
“Please do what’s pragmatic,” she said. “What’s responsible, what’s moderate, what’s compassionate? And support this budget the way it came out of budget committee. Support the deputy mayor’s motion on the rate. And we have held true to making sure it has helped the most vulnerable and those who have trouble paying their mortgages.”
After a long debate and opposition from several councillors, including Mammoliti and the mayor, council finally agreed to the tax hike.