A south Etobicoke resident warned Wednesday night against a “Scrooge” Toronto budget that cuts social services.
Michael Craig organized the budget information meeting attended by approximately 60 area residents at The Assembly Hall. The meeting was sponsored by the Commitment to Community campaign, a project of Social Planning Toronto, of which Craig is its Ward 6 volunteer co-ordinator.
“I expected there would be people at the meeting, saying ‘lower my taxes’, but I didn’t get that,” Craig said, a relatively new area resident who worked for 30 years writing and producing videos for the non-profit sector. “I was very up front about preserving and enhancing social services as a goal and the meeting attracted 60 people who agreed.”
Meanwhile, Toronto’s executive committee went into its meeting Thursday to tackle city’s $9.4 billion budget with an unexpected $232 million surplus. The surplus comes from greater-than-expected savings and $52 million higher than expected Land Transfer Tax revenues.
Toronto arts organizations will get an additional $22.5 million in funding, with the city’s financial reserves topped up by $29.5 milllion. A further $14.2 million will cover wage increases for unionized workers, budget chief Mike Del Grande said.
Area Councillor Mark Grimes did not attend the meeting.
But in a statement Thursday, Grimes said he couldn’t comment on specific files in the budgets.
“Every year the capital and operating Budget seems to be the most contentious issue we deal with at City Hall,” he said.
“It’s difficult to comment on any one item without looking at its context as part of the whole. I’ve been gathering feedback from around the ward, meeting with city staff and I’m looking forward to the (budget) meeting. There is going to have to be a give and take from all sides of the debate, but I think at the end of the day we’ll find ourselves with a budget everyone can be proud of.”
Specifically, Craig cited lack of community recreation facilities in the lakefront ward, the need for improved public transit and more affordable housing as concerns in the upcoming city budget.
In 2007, the city built the Ken Cox Community Centre amid criticism from some south Etobicoke residents the “add-on gym” to Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School was not the 20,000 square-foot community centre promised in 1989.
The centre has a 52x78 foot air-conditioned gym, adjacent to the school’s double gym, as well as change rooms, washrooms and staff offices.
In its latest action alert, Commitment to Community recommended Toronto communities need the following in the 2013 city budget:
* An increase of $2.8 million toward community grants for community organizations funded by the Community Partnership Investment Program;
* An increase of an additional $1.25 million over the proposed $117,800 to expand student nutrition programs into 25 new schools, expand operating days and meet the rising cost of food.
* An increase of $27.7 million to maintain shelter services, affordable housing and homeless support to maintain services at 2012 levels, and
* An increase of $15.6 million to expand the number of priority recreation centres, reinstate free adult programs.
Former budget chief and Toronto Councillor Shelley Carroll, and campaign spokesperson Krittika Ghosh, made presentations at the meeting.
Carroll referenced past years’ budget processes when Toronto council would deal first with its operating budget, then later its capital budget a few months later in the year after final reports were filed on both shortfalls and surpluses from the previous year’s budget line items.
An LRT planned for 2015 to run along Lake Shore Boulevard West has now been shelved by city officials, along with other planned LRT routes. A Humber Bay Express bus still runs from Lake Shore to downtown, an extension of a pilot program launched two years ago at the request of Humber Bay Shores’ condominium residents.
Concerns continue to centre around streetcar service on Lake Shore, notoriously affected by short turns, which cause delays in service for frustrated riders.
~With files from David Nickle