Library cuts rolled back a bit

Flurry of constituent emails convince Ward 25 councillor Jaye Robinson to nearly halve the proposed budget cut

Jaye Robinson says the flurry of emails she received from constituents fearing library service cuts prompted her to take action at executive committee on Jan. 12, days before the budget is put to a final vote.

Robinson, the only midtown councillor on the mayor’s 13-member executive committee, recommended using $3.1 million of the $8.8 million surplus in assessment growth revenues to reduce the Toronto library board cuts from $6.97 million to $3.9 million.

To avoid other service cuts, similar actions were taken by members of the executive, including saving the Hardship Fund, and reversing cuts of $1.9 million in arts and culture grants and over $900,000 to the local sidewalk snow clearing program.

The motions were approved as a package, paving the way to the budget’s final round of voting at city council.

Robinson said it was local branches like Locke and Don Mills that she had in mind when drafting the motion.

“Locke Library is not open on Sunday already, so to further shorten the hours is not acceptable,” she said in an interview after addressing committee.

The Don Valley West rep said she received more constituent emails and concerns about potential library cuts than the hundreds she received last year in opposition to Mayor Rob Ford’s plans for the Port Lands area.

As a Ford ally, Robinson was viewed as breaking ranks when she helped thwart his attempt to push through his own plans for revitalizing the eastern waterfront. Ford’s bid to remove the Port Lands from under Waterfront Toronto’s purview was ultimately rejected by council.

That being said, Robinson echoed the mayor when she said staff and the budget committee were taking a responsible approach to the budget.

“We had a very sizeable gap in the funding structure, and I think we’re getting to the point where we’re trying to clean things up so we’re not back at this every year,” she said of the city’s structural deficit.

Executive committee did hold steady on a proposed property tax hike of 2.5 percent, a number that Ford has made clear is non-negotiable. The committee also voted to put all $154 million of the budget surplus into the TTC’s capital spending projects.

Meanwhile, Ward 33 councillor Shelley Carroll said independent actions taken by the mayor’s handpicked executive was only the start of revisions councillors will bring to the table at council in order to avoid widespread city service cuts.

“Councillors are drafting this budget,” said Carroll, who was budget chief under David Miller.

The Don Valley East rep said behind the scenes, she’s heard many councillors, regardless of political stripe, are taking a close look at what they need to preserve for their constituents.

“There are lots of motions that will finalize this budget but there’s a consensus building around them,” she said.

Executive was the final committee review of the 2012 budget before council as a whole puts it to a final vote Jan. 17­-19.

About this article:

By: Karolyn Coorsh
Posted: Jan 13 2012 9:02 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto