City of Toronto budget chief Shelley Carroll announced on Wednesday that council is looking at a property tax hike of nine per cent for its 2024 budget.
The budget also includes an additional 1.5 per cent increase to the city building fund, which is a levy that supports critical projects such as transit and housing, bringing the hike to 10.5 per cent.
In a press release, the city said it is facing a $1.8-billion shortfall in its operating budget “due to years of chronic underinvestment in city services.” City financial staff were able to find over $600 million in cost savings for the 2024 budget.
“Even with all the savings we found and the deal from the province being incorporated into the budget, we still knew that we were going to have to make some very tough choices,” Carroll told reporters on Wednesday.
Carroll said consultations were held with residents of Toronto prior to forming the budget.
“We heard you loud and clear,” Carroll said. “While everyone is feeling the pinch, again and again, you told us that you still want us to protect the services that you rely on.”
The budget will include protecting front-line services and investing in transit, housing and safety.
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Carroll also said the city is waiting for the federal government to provide $250 million to support the “federal refugees currently stuck in Toronto’s shelter system.”
The city’s chief financial officer said in the budget presentation that the $250 million is required to cover the cost of about 4,300 shelter beds. City manager Paul Johnson offered a blunt criticism of the Trudeau government for not providing that funding earlier, noting the funding requirements have been known to the federal government since last year.
If a decision is not made by Jan. 26, Carroll said she will be forced to have staff bring forward an additional federal impacts levy of six per cent, making property taxes increase even more.
Toronto is legally required to deliver a balanced budget with no operating deficits, but in the past, budgets passed under former mayor John Tory contained holes in them that were contingent on funding coming through from other sources later in the year.
When asked by reporters why that process wasn’t being adopted this year, Carroll said attitudes had changed under Mayor Olivia Chow’s regime and with her as the new budget chief.
Chow will bring forward the final budget to city council on Feb. 14 for a vote.
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