Property taxes, the arts and projects in Ward 18 were topics of discussion for a small, but attentive group of constituents who attended Davenport Councillor Ana Bailao’s 2013 Toronto city budget town hall, Wednesday, Jan. 9.
Bailao outlined several initiatives in her ward during the consultation meeting at New Horizon’s Tower at the corner of Bloor and Dufferin streets, which attracted about a dozen people.
Capital funds allocated for Ward 18 as part of the city’s capital projects include Carleton Park where new pathways to accommodate strollers will be installed, a new playground in Susan Tibaldi Park and the expansion of Perth/Dupont Library, Bailao noted.
“There was talk of closing it, but the reality is we are working on expanding it. We’ve been able to put it on the map for the library board,” Bailao said. “The expansion will more than double the space and make it wheelchair accessible.”
Bloor Street West along with its sidewalks will be resurfaced next year between Lansdowne Avenue and Bathurst Street. Trees will be freed from their cement boxes and planted in trenches instead, said Bailao. A 36,000-square foot West Queen West art hub will be built at Lisgar and Queen streets as part of The Edge condo development. The Toronto Media Arts Cluster will be comprised of seven non-profit groups that specialize in film, photography and animation, and a 250-seat cinema, which will attract the smaller film festivals in the city, said Bailao.
Maria Brum, a Bloor West and Dufferin streets-area resident, expressed her gratitude for the investments being made in Ward 18, however, she was curious to know if there would be any money for such things as street lighting and sidewalk repairs.
“There are sidewalks that don’t have ramps for seniors and strollers and those with disabilities,” she pointed out.
Bailao explained that lighting is not considered a capital project, but rather smaller issues that “we’re working on.”
“In terms of sidewalks, we had Dundas done last year and we’re having Bloor and Dufferin done this year,” she said. “On College, Dundas and Queen where we’ll have new streetcars, we’ll get new sidewalks because the new streetcars are wheelchair accessible. We’ll have to have ramps at every corner. All sidewalks will have to be accessible.”
Brum asked if and when improvements to Lansdowne subway station will be made. It’s a station she said she avoids if she can. Bailao acknowledged that it needs an elevator and said while it is on the TTC’s capital project list, the station is not slated for redevelopment until about 2018.
Ward 18 is home to many seniors, whom Brum said she worried wouldn’t be able to stay in their homes because of property tax increases.
“Is there any support to help seniors stay in their homes?” she asked Bailao.
The reality is, said Bailao, Toronto maintains the lowest property taxes within the Greater Toronto Area.
“We have not kept up with inflation,” she said.
That being said, there are two programs that cater to helping seniors remain in the homes. For those who make less than $36,000 annually, they can have their property tax increase waived, said the councillor. The other is for those who make less than $52,000. They can have their increase deferred until after their house is sold.
“We want people to be able to stay in their homes,” said Bailao.