The city faced significant pressures heading into the 2014 budget process, including $54.2 million in unanticipated costs from the July 8 storm and December’s ice storm.
I’m pleased to report that $63 million in efficiencies helped deliver a balanced and fiscally sound budget! 2014 also marks the second year in a row that the budget was balanced without relying on the previous year’s surplus – a trend that took significant effort to reverse over this term and one that I’m glad to see continue.
The residential property tax increase — 1.73% plus an additional 0.5% for the Scarborough subway —was kept to the rate of inflation. Toronto continues to have the lowest residential property tax rate in the GTA. The non-residential increase was well below inflation at 0.58% plus 0.17% for the Scarborough subway, improving our business climate and helping keep the city competitive!
Toronto’s $9.6 billion operating budget also makes a number of key strategic investments, many of which were long overdue. Emergency Medical Services will see 56 additional paramedics, part of a three year plan to ensure that we have enough paramedics to match the growing demands of an aging population.
I also successfully put forward a series of motions looking for efficiencies and ways to do more with less through technological improvements and public-private partnerships.
One of my motions requested a comprehensive review and report from the Fire Chief by early spring on Fire Services’ implementation of a number of key resource saving technologies, including dynamic staging, dynamic modelling and traffic pre-emption as well as associated staffing and resource savings. Emergency Medical Services’ investment in similar technologies significantly reduced costs and improved service delivery, and a 2013 service efficiency study suggested that there was a similar opportunity for Fire Services.
The real challenge comes next year. The city will face a significant budget crunch thanks in large part to a $129 million provincial funding cut for social services. Similarly, a number of unfortunate motions were moved late in the budget process without sustainable sources of funding, presenting a real challenge for 2014.
If you have any thoughts about how to improve the city’s fiscal health, attract investment or drive growth – I would very much appreciate hearing them. Please don’t hesitate to send me an email at Councillor_Robinson@toronto.ca or give me a call at (416) 395-6408!