Rob Ford introduces his first budget. Here are the highlights and lowlights
As we’ve already mentioned, Rob Ford introduced his budget at a morning press conference. There will be arguments aplenty over whether Ford is breaking his promise to not have any “major” service cuts, or whether the mayor has the right priorities for the city. For now, it’s probably enough to get some idea of what the changes are. Here are the highlights (these things always involve a bit of number fatigue, so bear with us).
- Ford threatened heads of boards who brought in budget requests higher than his mandated five per cent cuts—specifically naming the police, library and public health boards for their misbehaviour. The mayor and Bill Blair have a meeting scheduled for later today at which we imagine the temperature will be lower than the wind chill.
- 47 bus routes are having their service hours cut (usually after 10 p.m.), though some will be “reallocated” to other routes. The full list of proposed route reductions is here, and there’s an unofficial map here. (Students’ favourite way to get from the U of T campus bars to a house party on Annette, the 26 Dupont bus, is getting cut after 10 p.m.) There are some questions about whether this will even work. How can the TTC increase bus service during rush hour when it currently uses 100 per cent of its buses at that time? Cuts to off-peak routes won’t create new buses.
- The urban affairs branch of the library is gone. The darling of downtown bookworms was probably never going to survive under this mayor. The branch will be relocated to the Reference Library. Adam Vaughan is asking how closing an entire branch isn’t a “major cut”; city staff are calling it a “rationalization.”
- $100,000 cut from the tenant defence fund, which is supposed to do exactly what its name implies: help tenants in disputes with their landlords. So renters—who already have a hard time getting people’s attention—just got a little less help.
- $23 million in user fee increases, consisting of, well, Ford doesn’t know yet (details apparently coming tomorrow). If there are any overdue books in your closet, though, we recommend returning those sooner rather than later.
- Oh, and that pretty four-rink hockey centre that was planned for the Lower Donlands? That’s cut, too.
Probably the most noteworthy thing about this budget is that almost all of the fiscal room Ford is using to keep (some) taxes frozen and keep (some) services from being cut comes from the accumulated surplus of the 2009 and 2010 budgets, care of David Miller and former budget chief Shelley Carroll. Once more, we assume that given the results, neither the current or former mayor enjoys people pointing that out.