Toronto council votes to reinstate full police increase and save swath clearing as part of budget that will see 9.5 per cent tax increase.

Mayor Olivia Chow’s first budget was left largely intact when it arrived at council Wednesday, save for several key amendments, including a restoration of the police budget approved by the Toronto Police Services Board and money to save a line-clearing program.

The budget builds on housing and social programs while attempting to plug a $1.8 billion budget shortfall, in part through a 9.5 percent tax increase on homeowners, the largest ever increase in the property tax. ownership since the merger.

“It feels great and it’s also historic in a way that we can finally get Toronto back on track even though we inherited a huge $1.8 billion financial disaster,” Chow said after the budget was finalized.

“When residents, businesses and all councilors work together, we have a budget that truly helps build a city that is more caring, more affordable and safer, where everyone belongs.”

The mayor described the budget as a good step toward her promise to put the city on the right path.

“Can we do it in a year? No. It’s a journey, but at least we’re getting started. We are stopping the decline in services. “We are changing direction.”

Full police surge restored

While the mayor sought to cut the budget increase for Toronto police from $20 million to about $8 million, she said Tuesday she would support a motion in council to provide the force with the full $20 million increase recommended by the Police Services Board. Toronto Police in December. . She said her support for reinstating the full increase follows signs that other levels of government will help Toronto with its unique policing needs, although they have not yet said how much they will commit.

Following Wednesday’s deliberations, council adopted a motion from Deputy Mayor Amber Morley to provide Toronto police with the full budget increase they had requested.

Morley, who also sits on the Toronto Police Services Board, said changes are being made to policing, but they will take time and in the meantime the city must be able to meet its unique needs. However, he added that residents hope to see results if the police receive more money.

“We expect a reduction in officer response times, increases in the number of frontline officers available, increases in the number of neighborhood officers and recruitment of more women and gender diverse individuals,” Morley told the council.

His motion passed 21-5.

Chief Myron Demkiw spoke to reporters after the vote and said he was pleased to see the full increase approved.

“There is room to recognize that Toronto’s unique needs include how police services are delivered,” Demkiw said after the meeting.

He added that he heard “loud and clear” that people want response times to improve.

He said a new class of 146 officers will graduate next week and will focus on the front lines. He said the force is also continuing to develop frontline supervisory capacity, which should hopefully improve efficiency.

When asked why he supported the motion to give the police the funds they were asking for, Chow said: “I found extra dollars last week.”

“I’m very grateful that the federal and provincial governments have stepped forward to say that Toronto has unique policing costs and that they are willing to share some of the burden of paying to support police,” the mayor said.

Shortly after Wednesday’s meeting, as councilors asked questions about the police budget, a protester in the gallery was ejected from the chamber after they interrupted the proceedings, shouting to defund and abolish the police.

Ahead of the budget, some campaigners had said they would like to see less money for the police, while the service itself argued that it has been underfunded for decades and that increases often fall short of inflation.

Cleaning rows and other stored items

Council members also voted unanimously to spend $4.1 million to save a swath clearing program, in which city snowplows clear snow dunes left at the foot of driveways.

Other motions passed to provide last-minute funding to several areas, including Black Creek Pioneer Village; planting, pruning and watering trees; community safety, violence prevention and wellness programs; and money to hire more law enforcement officers to respond to noise complaints, issue business licenses, and animal care and control officers for dangerous dogs.

Chow says building a better city requires money

A motion presented by Coun. Vincent Crisanti failed to reduce the property tax increase by one percent using $42.2 million from the Fiscal Stabilization Reserve Fund.

Chow had already cut one percent of the budget increase he presented to the council.

City staff had recommended a nine percent increase, plus a 1.5 percent increase to the city’s construction fund. Following budget consultations, Chow revised the proposed staff increase to eight per cent, bringing the overall increase to 9.5 per cent.

While the proposed budget asks residents to pay more, Chow said the increase amounts to less than a dollar a day for the average household.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the council voted to approve the tax increase 18-8.

Speaking to reporters before the meeting, he reiterated that he inherited a financial pile, with an initial budget deficit of $1.8 billion.

Chow highlighted the fact that he has been able to get money from other levels of government to help plug the hole, including loading the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway to the province, and hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government. to help with housing and asylum seekers. However, he stated that it is still not enough.

“Even with all our hard work, we still needed to increase revenue so vital city services improve,” Chow said.

He noted that the property tax increase for multiple residential buildings will remain at 3.75 percent so tenants don’t feel the impact.

Still, he said the increase is necessary if people want to see the kind of city they voted for.

“People voted for me to get the city back on track and change course to fix those potholes, invest in public transportation and housing,” Chow said. “We can’t do that without paying for it. It just won’t work. It’s magical thinking. It won’t work. We’ve been doing that for a while.”

However, he promised that the city will track its progress to make sure taxpayers get what they paid for.

“When you go out and buy something, you get something in return. When you pay for a service, you want to see the service and receive the service, you want good service,” Chow said. “When people are asked to pay $1 extra on their property tax, yes, they want to see results. So we will track our service levels. We will set goals and timelines with clear objectives so we can be held accountable. That It’s the least we can do. “We can do. Because Torontonians deserve nothing less.”

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