Toronto audit proposes cuts to zoos, parks
A bid to save the City of Toronto millions of dollars put zoo and park attractions in the crosshairs on Thursday with a new spending report recommending cuts to vast swaths of city park and environment services.
The report also said the city should lower its standards for grass cutting and snow removal, even suggesting it seek volunteers to maintain baseball diamonds and soccer fields.
The revelation came on Thursday as sections of a massive review of city services continued to be released to the public, with consultants KPMG LLP this time recommending ways to streamline services that report to the city's Parks and Environment committee.
City council called for the full service review in April, asking KPMG to recommend ways to bring spending in line with the city budget. Toronto faces a $774-million shortfall in 2012.
The report suggests eliminating the city's urban agriculture service entirely, which would mean the end to such city attractions as the Riverdale Farm, the zoos at High Park and Centre Island and gardens found in neighbourhood parks.
"While this is a relatively new and expanding activity area that provides some residents the opportunity to grow food on city parkland, it is discretionary in nature," the report says. "Some zoo and farm attractions could be closed, however, these are enjoyed by many Toronto residents."
Coun. Janet Davis says Toronto zoos have been delighting children for years and it would be a shame to lose that part of the city.
"They have been a great part of the history of our city and people will be shocked when they see what the suggestions are in order to save money," she said.
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, however, maintained such cuts to non-essential services are part of the new reality of the City of Toronto.
"People have been used to a way of life in the city. It is going to be hard to come to terms with the fact that they may have to pay something. The reality is we have to make some difficult decisions," Mammoliti told reporters.
Many of Thursday's recommendations focused on lowering the standards of city services, including grass cutting, tree care and snow clearing. The report admits that delaying snow removal could result in increased liability for slips and falls.
The report also suggests the maintenance of parks and sports fields could be contracted out to landscaping companies or perhaps by interested community groups on a voluntary basis.
The report recommends doing away with the Toronto Environment Office, an eco program established under former mayor David Miller, calling it "largely discretionary."
The Environmental Support for Residents and Businesses and Corporate Environmental Support Services were also marked as ripe for closure.
Sections of the core services review have been released on each of the past four days, recommending ways to streamline Toronto's Community Development and Recreation department, Public Works and Infrastructure committee and the Economic Development committee.
Once the full report has been reviewed, councillors will discuss which recommendations to approve in September.
While the core service review does not provide dollar estimates for their recommendations, it does mark each with a potential savings rating of low, medium or high.
Previous recommendations included:
- eliminating city-run childcare
- merging Toronto's EMS with Fire Rescue and Response
- sending more trash to landfills to cut down on costly recycling
- further privatizing garbage collection
- cutting down on how often streets are cleaned and snow is plowed
- eliminating fluoridation of Toronto's water supply.