After much consideration and negotiation, we passed the 2012 budget at city council two weeks ago. It was a contentious and exciting time to be here and be part of pulling together an inspirational coalition of councillors and constituents who stood up for the services and priorities that matter most to Torontonians.
Our balanced approach restored $15 million worth of program cuts by tapping into a small slice of the $154 million surplus – that’s .02 per cent of the budget.
We discussed the idea with councillors across the political spectrum including the Mayor. We should have worn pedometers to track the miles we covered marching back and forth to councillor offices on the 2nd floor!
In the end we garnered enough support to pass our motion 23-21. It was a terrific example of how we can actually work together across party lines and ward boundaries for the greater good of the city.
And we have the constituents of Ward 32 to thank for getting engaged and making their priorities known. This is a budget that has something for everyone:
For the Community Minded
We heard over and over loud and clear from Ward 32 and across the city what programs were important to people. Swimming pools, community centres, libraries, Community Partnership Investment Program (CPIP) grants, care for our seniors, children, and those in need, etc. add to our quality of life and diversity of our wonderful city. Our package proved a little could go a long way to help build a better city.
For the Financially Responsible
This budget sets us on the right path to sustainability. We are spending less than last year and have found $350 million in efficiencies. Torontonians are now more than ever fully aware of the price tag for our great services and programs. Many came to give deputations with good ideas for generating revenue, increasing participation, and improving marketing of our programs. Our property taxes were raised to 2.5% still below inflation. This is an area to look at in future and decide if they should be raised at the same rate as inflation. We pay the lowest property taxes in the GTA and they were frozen in 2011.
For the Forward Thinking
We will continue to look at ways to improve our efficiencies and generate revenue. I am Vice Chair of the Audit Committee and we are always sleuthing for fiscal opportunities. It is in interesting committee indeed! Outside the box thinking will be necessary to ensure better cost recovery models and help with funding ideas for big projects like transit (when we get a proper plan).
For the Eager Citizen
Participatory budget processes are extremely valuable. Two heads are much better than one! We need to engage Torontonians early on in deliberations and provide ample opportunity for listening and speaking. A few other Councillors and I were recently involved in a Quaker idea called ‘Scrupling’ which was a very successful way to cultivate inclusion and creativity (thanks Terry for inviting me!).
For Ward 32
From letter writing at Lazy Daisy’s Café to traipsing down to city hall in swim gear (one dedicated mom wore a wet suit and sweltered through committee), the Ward 32 community rallied to keep Toronto great. Petitions were signed, meetings were organized, kids were keen, numbers were dialed, you name it – and you did it! I even raced Ward 16 TDSB school trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher across the S.H. Armstrong swimming pool for the cause! Throughout it all, you remained positive and focussed. The ideas and passion were endless. I am so proud and honoured to represent you. Thank you for all your hard work. 2013 should definitely go a little smoother!