Last week, City Council approved the 2015 City budget, demonstrating a clear focus on investment in the priorities I heard from Ward 18 residents; including transit, roads, poverty reduction and housing.
In 2015, we have set the tone for investment.
This budget makes important new investments in services and infrastructure, while keeping the residential budget tax increase at 2.25%
• $39 million in transit service improvements including the child fare elimination (two to 12 years of age), 50 new buses to implement new express routes and reduce overcrowding, improved subway services and expanded overnight bus and streetcar service
• $25 million for poverty reduction including new shelter beds, increases to the student nutrition program, additional funding for childcare subsidies, enhanced shelter warming centres during weather events and expansion of priority centres
• Capital funding to purchase 60 new subway cars, 810 new 40-foot diesel buses and 195 low-car accessible light rail vehicles for the TTC fleet
• Creation of 181 new shelter spaces for our City's most vulnerable.
Central to this budget process was the participation and constant communication with you, and fellow Ward 18 residents. Hundreds of active citizens invested time and care into this budget by attending my Ward 18 Budget Town Hall, calling my office, sending emails and giving deputations at committee meetings. I wish to re-iterate my thanks to everyone who participated and ask for your continued active engagement as the work to achieve the necessary levels of investment in key areas continues.
Our continued active engagement on these issues will be necessary to address the major challenges we still face, and the only way to continue this trend of investment is to promote a discussion about how to pay for it. While my message from this budget is that Toronto City Council is ready to make these necessary investments, we must not shy away from the challenging discussion and decisions in the months and years ahead. We will always continue to look for savings and smart efficiencies. This must go hand in hand with technological innovation, better customer service and community engagement. Similarly, we need to continue to look for opportunities to better manage our assets and be open to explore other revenue sources for the city.
With the 2015 budget passed, now is the time to grow this discussion and I look forward to engaging you through this process leading up to the 2016 budget. I encourage you to share your thoughts with me on the issues that matter most to you and your family. It is through our continued dialogue and shared participation in these important City processes that we will produce the best possible outcomes for our community and build the kind of city we want to live in, now and for generations to come.