Mayor David Miller has formally laid out his priorities for the City of Toronto’s 2009 operating and capital budgets in an October 1 letter to City Manager Shirley Hoy and Budget Chief Shelley Carroll.
In the correspondence [PDF], Mayor Miller lays out clear but challenging guidelines for what the almost $10 billion financial plan should look like.
Top priority for the Budget Committee and civil service is â€œsupport(ing) the ongoing completion of (the Mayor’s) mandate.â€ For 2009, this includes:
-Increased service levels for TTC
–Waterfront renewal and Nathan Philips Square redesign
-Establishment of a Civic Engagement Office
-Operational capacity to support the implementation of the Bike Plan by 2012
-â€œEnhancingâ€ the Streets to Homes program
-Continued implementation of programs to get to the Mayor’s 70% waste diversion target
While acknowledging that implementing some of his directives will need new money, the Mayor says â€œwherever possible, they should be funded within existing budgets.â€ To do this, Mayor Miller says staff should budget a two percent reduction in spending, which will leave room for the wage increase expected in the next collective agreement (yet to be negotiated but to take effect on or retroactive to January 1, 2009).
Given inflationary pressures, the effect of a real reduction of two percent in a department’s operating budget is, conservatively, more like a five percent reduction. And on the capital budget side of things, the value of a dollar has essentially lost a quarter of its value over the past four years due largely to the increasing cost of building materials.
As for the use of property taxes, Mayor Miller instructed that â€œif a property tax increase is required, it should be in line with the City of Toronto’s rate of inflation and key cost drivers.â€
In prefacing his directives, Mayor Miller declared that since his 2006 re-election, he has implemented more than a quarter of his platform promises and all but three percent of his mandate has been implemented or is in the process of implementation.
Also of note is that, according to the letter, the Mayor expects a fall announcement from the provincial government on the long, long overdue report on the review undertaken in 2006 by the province on how provincially mandated services delivered by municipalities should be paid for.
Photograph by Spacing.