Councillor Janet Davis, Ward 31/Beaches-East York, voted for the city budget that passed last week, but she still has reservations about municipal tax increases — especially what she said is an eight per cent hike in water and wastewater consumption rates charged to flat rate consumers.
City Council approved the 2016-2024 Recommended Capital Plan for Toronto Water. It totalled up to $7.275 billion in project estimates, including $149 million in 2016. Realistically, Davis said, the ambitious work plan for Toronto’s waterworks is going to require an infusion of provincial money.
“We are delaying dealing with the reality of the financial situation in the city of Toronto,“ Davis said. “We cannot continue to finance this budget with at or below inflation tax increases.” She was referring to council’s support of Mayor John Tory’s modest tax increase proposal: 2.25 per cent, plus another .5 per cent specifically for the Scarborough subway. That small hike opens a gap between revenues and projected city expenses — that Toronto will try to close by borrowing from its capital reserves. And the overall residential taxes are separate from the three per cent hike in garbage collection rates and the eight per cent for water and sewers.
City Council is planning to look at a storm water charge this coming spring, which would be another tool for the water budget.
But Davis said that patchwork solutions aren’t enough; she said it’s time to look at building a sustainable financial foundation at the city of Toronto.
“I would like to see a provincial capital grant,” she said. “Ottawa gets something we call a ‘national province grant’ and maybe we need to say to the province that Toronto is special.”
She observed that Toronto is the economic centre and poltical capital of the province, and added that the city is home to many of Ontario’s leading postsecondary institutions, large hospitals, cultural institutions and other aspects of provincial infrastructure.
“Millions of people from outside of the city come every day,” Davis said. “They don’t pay a single dime to this budget.”