Councillor Sarah Doucette has only a few months to save the High Park Zoo as a publicly owned facility.
That’s how much time she’s been given to find sustainable funding for the zoo in High Park, as well for Centre Island Farm.
Otherwise, according to the 2012 budget presented on Nov. 28, the city will seek a private solution, issuing a request for proposal, failing which the zoo and farm could be closed.
“Basically the zoo will close if I fail. So that’s great pressure on me, but I’m determined to make this work,” says the Parkdale-High Park councillor.
“The city’s not prepared to fund this any longer.”
The proposed city budget also calls for a 2.5-percent property tax hike, 10-cent TTC fare increase, reduced library hours, reduced ice-time at selected arenas.
Touting the draft as a “smart budget” that moves the city closer to fiscal sustainability, Mayor Rob Ford said staff made some tough decisions.
But council granted Doucette time to find funding beyond the budget deadline because funding for the zoo does not run out until well into 2012.
Currently the zoo costs the city $220,000 a year.
The cuts, including the zoo, are a result of a directive issued by Ford earlier in the year to all city departments demanding a 10-percent reduction in budgets to close an apparent $774-million budget gap.
This directive followed an independent auditor’s report that evaluated core city services and reviewed the city’s finances.
“With an opening pressure of $774 million, which we inherited from the previous government, we were faced with some daunting prospects,” Ford said during his opening remarks at committee, held in council chambers.
As expected, the TTC was not spared from service level reductions, as the budget recommended a return to 2008 peak service standards on bus and streetcar routes.
This double-hit of reduced service and a fare hike comes despite an estimated ridership growth of six million passengers.
The budget also includes the slashing of over 2,300 jobs from the city’s overall work force.
However, the city will continue to fund the completion of up to 100 kilometres of off-street bicycle paths, the purchase of new light rail vehicles and a variety of infrastructure initiatives including the continued expansion of the Leaside Memorial Gardens Arena in the capital budget.
The draft budget allocates a hefty $114 million for the relocation and replacement of three police stations, including 13 Division in Forest Hill, and 54 Division, located in East York.
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