Mayor John Tory stands firm on low taxes in the face of massive budget shortfall, declining city services
“I’m always concerned that we look to our fiscal future,” said Tory on a recent Monday morning. “I want a strong economy, a strong city, but I also have to look at our fiscal future and make the tough decisions.”
To say the province has not been good to the city would be an exaggeration. But with a $30-billion deficit looming this year, the Tory administration is trying to avoid spending cuts and to find the right mix of taxes and user fees to balance the budget without putting the city in a financial hole. The problem is that Tory’s solution isn’t working.
He wants tax increases to make up some of the shortfall, but he’s not willing to raise more than he can raise from property taxes. And he knows that’s the wrong approach. The Toronto suburb of Markham has an existing tax system that is based on user fees.
“If we go down the road of raising taxes, and we need to to make some tough decisions, we need to look to Markham as a role model,” he said.
In his public budget for the rest of this financial year, Tory announced a slew of measures to protect the city’s services. He proposed two-tiered property tax rates, one for homeowners and one for renters based on where a property is located.
When the city raised taxes on homes in recent years to plug its budget holes, it did it by implementing a two-tiered system.
Homeowners pay a maximum of $3,500 for each unit, while renters pay $2,600.
The first rate is paid by owners of single-family homes with a gross value of $375,001 or less, while the second – the “community rate” – is paid by homeowners with a minimum gross value of $375,001.
Tory has said he wants to keep a “smart” system that gives relief to those on the bottom end of the property tax ladder, and that