What Budget 2014 means for Ward 18

Dear Neighbour,

Late last week, Council voted to approve the 2014 City Operating and Capital Budgets. I strongly believe that at the core of any successful budget process is community consultation and I was pleased to organize numerous engagement opportunities with neighbourhood residents to gain feedback on budget priorities.

Whether contacting me through the Feedback Form in my mailed newsletter, filling out my online budget survey, participating in the budget telephone townhall or attending the public budget meeting at Bloor Collegiate, I appreciate the hundreds of residents who took the time to participate and share their thoughts on how to improve both our neighbourhoods and our city.

This budget was also a chance to demonstrate the vision that we have for our city; as a city where every Toronto resident has the dignity and support to pursue opportunities and enjoy a high quality of life. We discussed not only how we should be moving forward, but the services and principles on which we want our City to be built.

During these consultations, you told me that transit and childcare were two major issues of concern. You highlighted the importance of social services such as libraries, recreation programming, tenant protection and the Student Nutrition Program. You shared concerns about keeping the City affordable, especially for our fixed-income neighbours, and the need to provide additional support to keep our small businesses healthy and vibrant. We spoke about Montreal and Vancouver in the context of per-capita arts funding and you reinforced the importance of additional arts support in Toronto – a sector on which many Ward 18 residents make their living. Overwhelmingly, residents felt that Toronto should receive additional support from Federal and Provincial governments to help with systematic challenges such as Transit, Childcare and Housing.

This community feedback was the bedrock of my deliberations at Council.

Despite the lack of leadership at City Hall by our Mayor, Council was able to work together on these important issues and address City challenges collaboratively. In particular, I was able to work with my Council colleagues to increase library hours, expand the Student Nutrition program to 27 new locations and secure funding to restore Toronto's tree canopy.

We also worked together to increase our City's per-capita funding for the arts, add new funding for the TTC to alleviate rush-hour crowding and increase the budget for community grants through the Community Partnership and Investment Program – a vitally important resource that supports many local Ward 18 community services.

Regarding the major concerns of Ward 18 residents I was also pleased to join Council in allocating $20 million in provincial funding for childcare, including 668 new subsidized spaces, a well-deserved portion of which will be in Ward 18. I likewise voted for additional funding to the Tenant Defense Fund, a program whose important work has directly benefited Ward 18 tenants and which protects the nearly 50% of Toronto residents who live in rental housing.

We also successfully passed a motion calling on the development of an intergovernmental campaign to advocate for a return to the Provincial operating subsidy for the TTC. As Toronto continues to receive the lowest transit subsidy of any major city in North America, it is critical we continue to make the case to Provincial and Federal partners about sustainable, long-term transit funding.

Also included in the 2014 City Budget is:

- 2 additional bylaw officers to deal with tenant repair issues in apartments

- Funds to restore Toronto's tree canopy

- Additional funding to hire new paramedics

- 16 recreation centres to get priority centre status (free recreation)

- Arts funding on track to get to $25 per capita

- $1 million Hardship Fund restored to budget

- Additional funding for recreation swim programs and Swim to Survive program

- Full funding for year 2 expansion of the student nutrition program

- $300,000 for new high priority community programs in underserved areas

- Brand new 30-bed women's shelter

- $1.98 million for fire services

- Expanded library hours

Residents also contacted me with concern about the Housing Stabilization Fund, an important program which offers assistance to low-income and vulnerable Torontonians. Through collaboration with other Councillors, we successful passed a motion that will require a report back on improvements to this program and supplementary funding as required.

Together, the tax increase for the 2014 city budget resulted in a residential property tax increase of 2.71%, which includes the 0.5% increase for the Scarborough Subway.

Since being elected in 2010, I have worked hard on Council to restore responsible budgeting practises and keep our City affordable. We have made tremendous progress to nearly eliminate our dependence on one-time surplus monies to balance our City budget. This has put our City onto a much stronger financial footing, enabling us to take on larger City-building projects with confidence. Likewise, critical programs, such as our community grants and library hours, no longer need to wonder whether reduced revenue projections will result in funding cuts.

Despite this significant advancement towards stabilizing our City finances, major pressures continue to exist for Toronto's 2015 budget. Especially in light of the extreme weather events of July's flooding and the ice storm in December, increasing TTC ridership, and growing cuts to affordable housing from other levels of government, we must continue the important work we have begun: finding innovative solutions locally, maximizing revenue opportunities, and encouraging additional support from our Provincial and Federal governments.

Thank you again to the hundreds of residents who participated in the budget consultations leading up to Council's budget meeting. Your support and feedback are extremely important to me and I invite you to contact me at anytime through my City Hall office (councillor_bailao@toronto.ca, 416-392-7012) or visit me in person every Saturday, from 10am-12pm, during my Community Office Hours at Dufferin Mall.

 

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