Nix pet licences, fluoridation: Toronto audit
Published Monday, July 18, 2011 8:58PM EDT
Toronto councillors mulled the idea of scrapping pet licences and fluoridated water among other services at the first of many meetings set to discuss cost-cutting proposals at City Hall.
Burdened with a budget gap of $774 million, council enlisted consulting firm KPMG to scour the city budget for potential service cuts.
Monday's whirlwind meeting kicked off a week-long review of KPMG's report, where services such as snow removal, garbage pick-up and fluoridated drinking water were all on the chopping block.
No one likes service cuts but tough decisions need to be made in light of the city's tight 2012 operating budget, said the chair of Toronto's public works committee.
"We have a $770-million problem staring us in the face," said Don Valley East councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.
Earlier this month, Wong told CTV Toronto that 96 per cent of services handled by Public Works and Infrastructure are considered either mandatory or essential -- leaving little room for savings.
Though the KPMG report doesn't provide estimates for their cost-cutting proposals, it marks each proposal with a potential savings rating of low medium or high.
Though several meetings have been scheduled to discuss the dense 44-page document, Parkdale-High Park councillor Gord Perks said councillors haven't been given enough time to review the report.
He told reporters that councillors were rushed through Monday's review of 24 proposed service cuts without knowing the full impact on residents.
"Twenty-four different cuts to really important services," he said.
"I guess that gives me 20 seconds to look at snow clearing, about 20 seconds to look at fluoridation -- we're being rushed here."
Over 25 community members gathered at Monday's City Hall meeting in an attempt to convince councillors not to cut back on services such as bike lanes and community environment days.
Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE 416, accused Mayor Rob Ford of using the city's budget hole to discreetly break one of his election promises.
"This is a red herring," he said. "It's being used by this administration to justify cuts to services that Toronto residents enjoy."
The report has highlighted garbage collection as the city's highest potential savings mark. KPMG recommends that the city contract out more it's garbage collection and also considers eliminating the collection of small commercial waste as another significant cost reduction.
But Brian Demareski argues that City Hall is trying to save money at the expense of its workers. The father of three has worked as a Toronto garbage collector for 15 years and doesn't want cuts to affect his job.
"There's no gravy," he said. "There's families and communities who get affected by all this stuff."
City council plans to discuss the service review daily for the next week and a half. The proposals will also be brought up at special council meetings slated for September 26 and 27.
With a report from CTV's Naomi Parness