Budget debate won't be smooth

Ward 15's Josh Colle introduces an amendment that would see $15 million in spending put back in

A faction of councillors showed a united front in their quest to avoid widespread service cuts as council convened to debate the 2012 budget on Jan. 17. 

While councillors voted almost unanimously for a 2.5 percent property tax hike, it seems likely there won’t be as much agreement on the fate of $154 million in operating surplus dollars from 2011, monies that Ford wants put exclusively toward the TTC capital budget. 

Early on, Ward 15 councillor Josh Colle presented [color=#666666]one large budget amendment[/color] designed to prevent many contentious service cuts and efficiencies by dipping into that very surplus. 
It was apparently the result of behind-the-scenes work by several centrist and left-leaning councillors leading up to council’s budget vote.

This morning Mayor Rob Ford and Toronto’s 44 councillors began three days of deliberation on the budget, which calls for about $80 million in service cuts. 

Colle’s proposal calls on funding restoration for the school-based childcare rent subsidy, Community Partnership Investment Program grants, Priority Centre youth programs, ice rinks and pools, mechanical leaf collection, and three city shelters. The motion also recommends increasing the TTC budget by $5 million to prevent proposed service cuts. 

In presenting the motion, Colle called the amendments minor tweaks to a budget that is by and large getting Toronto back on firm financial footing. 

“Citizens expect councillors to come to some kind of consensus,” he said. “We can’t please everyone, we can’t get the perfect budget. A lot of hard, hard work has been done by budget chief Mike Del Grande to get to this point, and I think this represents some last tweaking that Torontonians want to see.” 

Speaking with the Town Crier during council recess, Del Grande said he’d heard about some councillors working behind the scenes on a sweeping amendment, but wasn’t expecting to see the $15 million figure. 

“A small tweak to me, is not $15 million,” he said. “I don’t think a whole lot of thought was given to the rationale of why we did what we did,” he said. 

He noted five of the school pools slated for a funding cut are in need of major repairs. 

“Those five are the worst wading pools that are broken and I’ve got plans to try and rehabilitate them but the way they’re presently situated, it makes no sense to put them back,” Del Grande said. 

The Scarborough councillor said he expects to see similar motions presented over the course of budget proceedings, but said votes are likely to be narrow wins or losses on the council floor. 

Del Grande said he presented an economical budget at committee, but some of his colleagues are now turning it into a political one. 

Ford ally Giorgio Mammoliti attempted to defer Colle’s motion for consideration by the mayor’s office.

Council debates the budget until Jan. 19.

About this article:

By: Karolyn Coorsh
Posted: Jan 17 2012 4:04 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto