From its launch in late January to today, Members of Toronto City Council have had ‘budget on the brain’ for weeks. Dozens of staff presentations and meetings, hundreds of public deputations, and nearly a thousand communications from stakeholders have all cumulated to the final City of Toronto 2019 Budget, which City Council approved late Thursday evening.
As the first budget of the new 2018-2022 Council Term following the October 2018 election, City staff took a leading role in its preparation, which generally reflects on many of the key priorities of the last term: Housing, Mobility (including transit, cycling, walking), Citizens and Neighbourhoods, Modernization (finding better ways of delivering municipal services), and Sustaining Financial Health.
Mayor John Tory spoke of the challenges in finding an appropriately balanced approach between ensuring the City remains affordable while also responsibly managing the City’s finances and investing in services and infrastructure for future. That approach lies neither in service cuts (service shock) nor dramatic property tax increases (sticker shock), but in a general balance across the board. An achievement, no doubt, considering the $83M shortage in revenue from the Municipal Land Transfer Tax (MLTT) in 2018.
This is an austerity budget that maintains the status quo of services and invests in some infrastructure, without any major pulls at the public’s purse. In the staff-recommended 2019 Tax and Rate Combined Operating Budget, the total cost to deliver these services to Toronto residents is $13.47 Billion. The City’s Capital Budget and Plan for 2019-2028 is $40.67 Billion. Let’s dive further into what these numbers all mean, what’s included and what isn’t included, as well as some key trends throughout this budget and other municipal budgets across Ontario.