Rob Ford criticizes council, says proposed budget is 'the worst' he has ever seen
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Monday, January 27, 2014 12:14PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 27, 2014 6:10PM EST
Mayor Rob Ford says his colleagues on council have been “irresponsible” and “reckless” in putting together the 2014 budget and have shown no regard for the taxpayers of the city.
Ford made the comments during a press conference at city hall Monday afternoon, in which he renewed his criticism of a budget he has previously called “the worst” he has ever seen while wearing a bright orange Denver Broncos football jersey.
The proposed budget, which was approved by executive committee last week, includes a 1.75 per cent property tax hike.
A tax increase of 0.48 per cent due to provincial legislation will also be tacked on, meaning home owners will see a total tax hike of 2.23 per cent if the budget is approved by council during a meeting later this week.
Ford has previously indicated a desire to cap the total tax increase at 1.75 per cent.
“All we have seen so far is a desire to increase spending. We haven’t seen any councillors present any significant efficiencies at all. In fact out of a slew of motions presented to date only one actually looked at funding savings and every other motion is to increase spending,” Ford said. “This is completely irresponsible, reckless and unsustainable. This isn’t how you run a business and this isn’t how you run your own household.”
Ford has said that he can “easily” chop $50 million off the $9.6-billion operating budget, but he has refused go into specifics on how he will go about that and dodged the question when it was asked Monday.
Ford then went on to lash out at fellow councillors for stabbing him in the back when they voted to strip him of many of his powers and practicing “reckless spending” in his absence.
“Folks without Rob Ford in charge it doesn’t take long to return to the tax-and-spend ways of the past and the reality is that since November many councillors have forgotten who pays the bill,” he said. “The taxpayer is our boss and at the end of the day it will be the taxpayers that have to foot the bill for their reckless spending.”
Councillor calls on city to top up emergency reserves
As Ford cried foul over the size of the budget Monday, many other councillors expressed concern that it may be too lean.
Discussing the budget at city hall, Ward 21 Coun. Joe Mihevc said the city’s reserve account for weather-related emergencies must be topped up even if it means passing on the cost to taxpayers.
“We have spent a lot of money, over 100 million for the flood in the summer and the ice storm in the winter, and we haven’t topped up the reserves,” he said. “We need to say that this is the appropriate amount that we should be putting aside on an annual basis given the kinds of weather storms that we are having and yes at the end of the day it is us — the public — that will have to pay for it.”
Prior to the ice storm the city had about $30 million in reserve funds to deal with extreme weather; however those funds have since been used.
Chief Financial Officer Rob Rossini did make a presentation to executive committee last week, calling for a 3.21 per cent property tax hike in 2014 to help replenish the city’s emergency funds, but his suggestion was ultimately ignored.
Speaking with CP24 Monday, Coun. Paula Fletcher said the city risks a “tremendous financial setback” if it doesn’t find a way to set aside some money for weather emergencies.
“We have had a flood and an ice storm in 2013 and I think Torontonians realize that we have to put a little away for a rainy day,” Fletcher said. “Everyone is really afraid saying we can’t ask people for more money, but if your roof was about to fall in you would certainly put a little money aside. People will understand.”
Di Giorgio defends budget
Ford has criticized budget chair Frank Di Giorgio for being unable to uncover new efficiencies and for relying on rough figures for the revenue expected to be generated by this year’s and next year’s land transfer tax.
Earlier Monday, Di Giorgio responded to that criticism, noting that the final say on the budget will ultimately rest with council as a whole and not the mayor.
“I found as many savings as I think are reasonable and if somebody wants to disagree with me that is fine,” Di Giorgio told reporters at city hall Monday afternoon. “You do the best you can and at the end of the day the decision made by council will prevail.”
Di Giorgio added that he believes the proposed tax increase is “reasonable.”
“In very simplistic terms, I think a property tax hike that is in the neighbourhood of the rate of inflation is reasonable,” he said.
Council will begin debating the proposed budget during their meeting Wednesday.
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