Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Speediest Budget Ever?

The National Post claims that council is rushing through the budget process with the intent that things will be 'status quo', no changes and that any real changes will happen in in 2012. Mayor Rob Ford has promised zero property tax increase and no (major) service cuts. The last part is being redefined from his campaign that essentially said no cuts to city services whatsoever. More detail on this ever-changing definition can be seen in this Globe and Mail story

What is meant by "Major" ?

City manager Joe Pennachetti sems to indicate its stuff like getting rid of whole departments, stuff like that ?
Yet Mayor Ford and the budget chief Mike del Grande are being coy and non-responsive on the meaning.
We can certainly look forward to city council fireworks when the budget is debated Feb23rd.

A dictionary definition of MAJOR:
Notable or conspicuous in effect or scope; Prominent or significant in size, amount or degree

Key dates:

January 10 - Budget launch followed by quickie public consultation

January 20 - Public consultation for Toronto and East York (includes ward 18) at 6:00 pm in the Council Chanber in East York, York Civic Centre, 850 Coxwell Avenue  Agenda link and Facebook link
This is the ONLY opportunity for ward 18 people to impact the budget in a public forum.

January 25 - Budget preparation wrapup by Budget Committee

February 10 - Final budget determination by Budget Committee (Final review of both Opearting and Capital Budgets)

February 17 - Mayor's Executive Committee makes last minute tinkering with 2011 Budget

February 23 - City Council debates and votes on the budget.

.... The various departments at City Hall are making up their budgets as I type this. For Example:

* Toronto Police Services wants a 3% increase which brings their cost to the taxpayer to almost One Billion Dollars.... and that's not counting what kind of labour settlement they make this year. Despite former budget chief Shelley Carroll asking all departments to cut budgets by 5%, TPS refused. Some people have claimed police budegt has increased by 77% over the last 10 years. The Police Services Board is meeting today, Jan 5 at 3pm at 40 College Street Police HQ to discuss it Agenda here

*Update1: John Sewell says there is a lot of gravy in the bloated police budget, pointing out that each police officer only responds to about one call every two shifts and the average number of arrests made are about 7-8 per year for each police officer. He advocates for cutting or at least holding the line on the police budget
* Update2: I attended the meeting. There were about 30+ audience, mostly reporters. Alok Mukharjee was re-elected to be Chair of the Police Services Board ($90,000/yr) and Michael Thompson, Councillor from Scarborough is Vice-Chair. Chief Bill Blair seemed to think it would be business as usual, quick approvals and so on, but was suprised when he was grilled by both Frances Nunziata, City Council Speaker and right hand of Rob Ford and Thompson (Ford's other right hand). Basically, Blaitr expected the budget guidelines were meant for others, not the police.

* Update3: Check out this blogger's view of the police versus John Sewell situation and how The Sun appeals to emotion but  not logic or facts HERE

...What followed was a bizarre exchange between Nunziata and Blair that went something like this:
(wildly reworded to give you a picture of the frowns, shaking heads, tones and general confusion of the board)
Nunziata: Why didn't you work to achieve a 5% decrease that council had requested?
Blair: I'm not allowed to
N: What ?
B: Council and the Province mandates how many officers I must have, I'm not allowed to cut back
N: Well why didn't you present a budget showing the cuts and effects?
B: I'm not allowed to
N: But we asked you to
B: It is up to Council and the Province to set staff levels
N: What? (you get the picture)

When Thompson asked his question several times it boiled down to this:
..Let me get this straight, I want to be clear, You didn't TRY?

Situation: Decision on the budget is deferred
A showdown is set: Who's The Boss? Chief Blair or Mayor Ford ?

* Toronto Public Library is actually cutting service by proposing closing the downtown Urban Affairs branch and have reduced their request from 3.3% increase down to a 2.2% increase. They meet Thursday Jan 6 at 6p at Toronto Reference Library (Bloor/Yonge) Details here
Side Note: I guess this is not what Mayor Ford is now claiming "No major service cuts". He campaigned on "No Cuts to services" but now we see waffling: What's major mean? I don't know, it just means no major cuts says budget chief

* Update: I didn't make this meeting but it seems there was some drama. Adam Vaughan advocated strongly and successfully  to NOT close the Urban Affairs library branch. See the story on this that should have been entitled Books and Bedbugs So the libraries status quo budget is calling foir a 2.6% increase.

* Toronto Public Health is asking for just a 0.4% increase and will present the first draft budget at their meeting on Thurs Jan 6 at 6pm Agenda details here They have amongst other things in their budget about $4million spend on school nutrition programs for about 30 schools.

*Update: Pleasant surprise. They met and are asking for an additional 1.5% budget boost to fight BEDBUGS ... certainly a city-wide concern, This makes sense as for every dollar in this program, the province will pay 75% and it is sorely needed by many who are suffering, especially low incomers in TCHC buildings. YAY !

? One thing I wonder about is how some of the groups, like the Affordable Housing Committee which only meets for the first time on February 2 get their budgets properly prepared and have any kind of public consultation?
* Update: Jan10 first budget draft calls for 5.1% DECREASE in Affordable Housing Budget.