Toronto City Council approves $1-billion police budget
Published Wednesday, February 17, 2016 10:21AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 17, 2016 9:47PM EST
Toronto City Council has approved a nearly 2.5-per-cent increase in the police budget for 2016, bringing the cost of law enforcement in the city to more than $1 billion.
The Toronto Police Services’ request for a 2.45 per cent budget increase proved to be one of the most contentious issues on budget day.
Some councillors suggested that millions should be cut from police funding.
“To have the police come in at a two or three per cent increase seems very unfair to a lot of people, so I think the time has come to sort of get those costs under control,” said Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker.
Some councillors even put forward motions calling for a $25-million cut to the TPS budget. And even the budget chief Gary Crawford says police spending could be scaled back.
The motions were not approved by council, but police were asked to try to find ways to cut down on spending.
City councillor and former police board member Michael Thompson led the call to flat line police spending.
“The police are unwilling to actually make the necessary changes whether structurally to the organization or the budget unless they’re forced to do that,” Thompson said.
But Police Chief Mark Saunders warned that cutting $25 million from the budget would mean losing 400 officers.
“Just take a look at today’s climate. Do you think that, under this existing model, 400 people less would be a benefit to the city or detriment to the city?” he said.
The mayor also said now is not the time to start hacking away at the police budget.
“Community safety is too important a matter to be deal with on the back of an envelope or the back of a napkin,” Tory said.
Despite the opposition, Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of increasing the police budget.
The police board launched a task force on Tuesday that will look at modernizing operations and containing costs.
Tory said any cuts to police spending need to be made with a “methodical, steady approach.”
Police officials are argued that their spending is largely the result of collective agreements already in place, with salaries and benefits making up about 90 percent of costs.
Council approves 1.3 per cent property tax increase
Council also voted in favour of a 1.3 per cent residential tax increase for 2016 that will cost homeowners an average of $35 more per year.
Councillors voted 30-13 in favour of the hike during budget day on Wednesday.
During his election campaign, Mayor John Tory promised to keep tax hikes at or below the rate of inflation. He has since been lobbying council to vote against any proposed tax hikes that would exceed the rate of inflation.
On Wednesday, motions raised by councillors Janet Davis and Gord Perks that would raise property taxes by 2.3 and 3.9 per cent respectively failed to win council’s approval.
As a result, this year’s budget will have to rely on a $50-million non-renewable reserve -- a model that even some of Tory’s supporters say won’t be sustainable past 2016.
Here is a recap of the city council debate on the proposed 2016 budget with coverage from CTV Toronto's Natalie Johnson.