Toronto councillors approve $1.4B budget for 2007
Toronto councillors have approved a $1.432 billion capital budget for 2007 with half of the money allocated for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).
The TTC "is not sustainable without long-term federal and provincial funding for transit infrastructure," said Mayor David Miller. "We need a national transit strategy."
The TTC will receive $717 million, or 51 per cent, of the total budget. Some of the money will be used to purchase new subway cars, replacement buses, and to build a garage to house TTC vehicles.
The budget was approved as part of the Five Year Capital Plan of $6.7 billion that will see two-thirds of the funds directed towards improving city transit and transportation infrastructure.
The 2007 budget also includes limited funding for trails and parkland, improving public spaces and energy-use reduction projects for city buildings.
The city will spend more than $10 million on construction to add 132 new and replacement shelter beds in the city.
It will also spend more than $4 million on continuing restoration work on the exterior of Casa Loma.
Toronto's debt, which was $1.7 billion in 2005, will increase to more than $2.6 billion this year, reports the Toronto Star. The debt load is forecasted to pass $3.1 billion by 2011.
But some councillors are more concerned about the additional debt the city is taking on to fund its projects.
"The average taxpayer will expect to see, year after year, property tax increases simply to service our debt," said Councillor Karen Stintz.
"We're out of money," says Councillor David Shiner. "This budget is designed now to run us out of money in five years."
He estimated that the city's debt will cost every Toronto household about $2,352 over the next five years.
Budget chairwoman Shelley Carroll, however, says residents should blame the provincial and federal governments for Toronto's financial shortfalls.
Her goal is to keep property tax hike increases in line with the rate of inflation, a promise made by Miller during last fall's election.
The tax increase amount should be known by the end of the month, following the releases of the federal and provincial budgets.
Details of the budget can be found on the city's website.
With a report from CTV's Desmond Brown