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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
Toronto Budget Update
08/03/2004

I haven't written much recently on the Toronto City budget process. For my readers who have been following along, here's an update. (Index of my previous budget posts is here.)

According to the City's schedule, most of February was taken up with looking for ways to reduce (not eliminate) the $344 million shortfall.

How it is supposed to work is that the particular boards and committees are asked to find the cuts required. What actually has been happening is that many of the groups have come back and said that they can't cut any more. An imperfect example is found in today's Toronto Star. It has an article about the dispute between the library board and the budget committee.

Our library system is apparently the second biggest in the world, and the debate is over $1.7 million. The library board claims it needs an increase of 6.6% over last year to maintain the status quo, while the budget committee is requesting they make do with 5.2%. Apparently, the cost of acquisitions is up. (I recommend donating books to the library. I have gotten rid of lots of good books that I was never going to read again. It's nice having them on your bookshelf, but it's also good to know someone else can access them.)

Anyway, in the end, the budget committee will have to make the budget balance. If all the boards and committees fail to make the cuts, budget chief David Soknacki will just have to do it for them. This is just a dance right now, although it's partly driven by the fact that some departments have truly suffered through too many cuts in the past 6 years.

But this isn't the real story anyway. As in every year since amalgamation and downloading, the City is negotiating and waiting to see what it will get from the province. This is the new normal, ever since Queen's Park rearranged our finances in a way that is entirely unsustainable.

So, until we find out how much of our income taxes and sales taxes will be returned to us by Dalton McGuinty, there isn't much happening on the local budget front that is real.


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