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5 notable proposals in John Tory’s Toronto budget as he remains to see it through – Toronto

Toronto city council is set to debate John Tory’s budget Wednesday as the mayor stays in office to see his fiscal plan through.

Tory announced a plan Friday to resign following an affair with a former staffer and then decided to stay on for the budget debate. The budget is the first prepared under Tory’s new “strong mayor” powers. Here’s a look at five key proposals in the document:

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In January, Tory announced a proposed $48.3-million increase to Toronto’s police budget, which would in part go toward the addition of about 200 officers, as well as programming aimed at addressing youth violence.

The boost would bring funding to just over $1.1 billion for 2023, a figure Tory’s critics have said is grossly inflated compared to other line items and underfunded social services.

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Tory has said the city “could not put off the investment” in the police service after the force’s budget was held at roughly 1.7 per cent average annual increases over his previous eight years as mayor.

Transit changes

The budget proposes a five per cent cut in transit service compared to last year, or a nine per cent cut compared to pre-pandemic levels. Critics of the proposal say it’s at odds with efforts to bring back ridership and make the system safer.

Tory has defended the transit budget by pointing out it increases the city’s subsidy to the Toronto Transit Commission by $53 million and service levels remain above ridership, which the budget estimates is about 73 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

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Some councillors have signalled they intend to reopen debate Wednesday on the city’s warming centres after a recommendation to keep them open 24-7 until mid-April was scrapped by a Tory-backed council majority last week. An amended motion, which would have asked city staff to use their best effort to keep them open around the clock, was defeated in a tie, with Tory again voting against it.

While the operating budget earmarks a 6.5 per cent increase to shelter, support and housing administration, critics say more needs to be done. The city could close five of its temporary shelter sites this year, according to its COVID-19 shelter transition plan, even as the system runs at capacity and dozens of people are turned away every night by a city hotline intended to match them with a shelter bed.

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One of the most frequent criticisms levelled against Tory during his re-election campaign was the condition of city infrastructure. One way to track the state of the city’s infrastructure is its backlog in maintenance and repairs, known as the state of good repair.

The 10-year capital budget makes big investments in Toronto Water infrastructure and a $2-billion Gardiner Expressway rehabilitation plan. But when those are excluded, the city’s total backlog is expected to grow by more than $12 billion by 2023, with TTC, parks and recreation, and transportation services among the programs driving that increase. The TTC state of good repair backlog alone is expected to grow by nearly $6.3 billion over the next 10 years.

Residential property tax increase

Tory is proposing a 5.5 per cent residential property tax increase this year, a $183 hike on average before accounting for other taxes, according to budget documents.

It’s the largest of his tenure, but still aligns with his campaign promise to keep property taxes below the city’s rate of inflation — 6.6 per cent when he laid out his budget plans in January.

Economists says municipal governments, which have limited tools to raise revenue, risk cuts to service and capital plans unless they keep pace with inflation.

Click to play video: 'Toronto council split on John Tory’s departure'

Toronto council split on John Tory’s departure

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