Toronto’s $9.4 billion 2013 budget is going to the city’s executive committee Thursday, Jan. 10, with an unexpected surplus of $232 million.
The surplus comes from richer-than-expected savings and much higher revenues from the Land Transfer Tax, which brought in $52 million more than city finance staff thought.
As a result, Toronto arts organizations will receive an additional $22.5 million in funding, and the city’s financial reserves will see another $29.5 million.
A further $14. 2 million will cover wage increases for unionized workers.
But according to budget chief Mike Del Grande, that’s all that anyone should expect from the unexpected windfall.
He pointed out after the budget meeting that the city’s policy is that surpluses are subject to a policy, in which 75 per cent must go to defraying capital costs.
And he reiterated his threat that if council wants to dig into that cash when the matter comes to the floor of council next week, he may not stay on as budget chair for the remainder of the term.
“I’ve put everyone on notice that if they want to go on a spending spree, and turn around and want to return to the trough and go back to what they call surpluses to balance future budgets — its improper accounting and I will not subscribe to that kind of accounting,” he said.
Del Grande did, however, move to add 10 positions to the city’s Emergency Medical Services budget, by dipping into unallocated money from a .05 per cent property tax increase, to the tune of $421,000.
“With EMS we’ve got a problem — we have to get more vehicles on the road and that’s critical,” said Del Grande. “That’s the number one priority.”
The 2013 budget will go to executive committee Jan. 10, and then to Toronto Council for a full vote next week.
At least one member of the budget committee expects there will be some “tinkering” on the floor of council.
York Centre Councillor James Pasternak attempted to get budget committee approval to dip into reserves to remove fees for adults in priority centre recreation programs — without success.
“I think we have to look at the variance to do some tinkering,” said Pasternak. “We’re not looking at major tinkering — just patching and fixing and making sure programs are preserved.”