Capital improvements top Toronto Centre budget

Dennis Hanagan –

Road, sewer and park improvements for Toronto Centre-Rosedale are in the city’s 2014 budget, councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam told her constituents at a Dec. 9 meeting.

Water and sewer rehabilitation is scheduled for north Sherbourne, Elizabeth, Gerrard, Mutual, and Wellesley West. Road resurfacing and streetscape improvements are set for Church, Wellesley West, Carlton, Charles, and Queen’s Park Crescent.

Constituents heard about the city’s $9.6 billion operating budget for 2014 and its $18.6 billion 10-year capital budget for 2014-2023.

Wong-Tam told the two dozen people who attended the meeting at Belmont House that councillors “try to stretch a dime into a dollar” when determining the budget.

People said the $957 million police operating budget—a 3.1 per cent increase over the 2013 approved operating budget—needs reining in, just like the TTC is asked to rein in its budget. Wong-Tam said it’ll take “political courage” to do that.

She called the police budget “out of whack” in relation to Toronto’s population. Dealing with it is a balancing act between reducing costs yet maintaining services, she said.

Ward 27 capital park improvements, totaling $6.4 million, include developing a master plan for Queen’s Park which Wong-Tam says has taken “a beating” from people trampling the grass at large public events.

Other park improvements include redevelopment of Jesse Ketchum Park, a playground and washroom at Allan Gardens, restoration work for Mackenzie House, and $22 million in shelter and long-term care redevelopment as part of George St.’s revitalization.

Included in the operating budget are funds to add more front line paramedics and fire prevention officers, and resources to re-start hiring police officers and augment the planning department to better deal with the high amount of development proposals.

The capital budget provides for more TTC rolling stock, replacing aging Centre Island ferry boats, better management of Downtown traffic congestion, and BIA streetscapes improvements.

The budget goes to the city’s executive committee Jan. 22 and to city council Jan. 29 and 30. It requires a residential property tax increase of 2.5 per cent and a business increase of 0.84 per cent. The city’s policy is to keep business property tax lower than that of residences.

More than one third of the city’s operating revenue (39.2 per cent) comes from property taxes. It receives 19.1 per cent in provincial grants and subsidies, 1.8 per cent in federal grants and subsidies, and 17.1 per cent in user fees.