0 MILLION IN COUNCIL-APPROVED PROJECTS TO BRIDGE SHORTFALL

TORONTO – The city’s budget committee is cutting $40.2 million in council-approved spending in an attempt to bridge a $124-million gap.

Unfunded projects include daily grooming of beaches and the TTC’s new and enhanced express bus service.

“We had to look at priorities. We had to look at choices,” said budget chief Gary Crawford.

“It’s not that we are saying no to these items, what we are saying is, ‘Probably not this year, but we will look at them next year.’”

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Crawford said in 2015, the budget committee accommodated only 22 per cent of new and enhanced projects.

“This year we are supporting almost 40 per cent, so we are actually investing more when you look at new and enhancements,” he said.

Last month, city manager Peter Wallace presented a preliminary budget with a $57.4-million gap in revenue.

But it turns out Toronto’s budget shortfall was more than twice as big: The preliminary budget didn’t account for $67 million worth of additional spending council has promised.

READ MORE: City budget committee facing $57.4M shortfall

The remaining $27 million will go toward other projects which include transit, poverty reduction like community housing and expansion of the homemakers and nurses services program.    

Crawford said the city is also considering dipping into its reserve funds to cover approximately $17.1 million worth of costs.

But some councillors argue using those rainy-day savings is unsustainable.

“What is being proposed by our budget chief – and, I presume, our mayor – is an unsustainable budget that actually moves the city backwards,” said councillor Janet Davis

“Instead of a reasonable tax increase or talking seriously about real revenues, we have a strategy that relies on one-time funding.”

The preliminary budget put forward by Wallace suggested a 2.17 per cent property tax increase, but Tory has insisted on keeping property tax increases at 1.3 per cent, at the rate of inflation.

READ MORE: Tory asks budget chair to consider spending freezes, target investments ahead of Tuesday meeting       

The budget committee has also asked Toronto Police Service to reduce budget spending by $3 million and the TTC to reduce their budget by $5 million.

“[Tory] shouldn’t have made promises to the people of Toronto if he didn’t intend to pay for them,” said councillor Gord Perks.

The budget will be going to executive committee Jan. 28.