The Cheat Sheet: Dec. 11 City Council

The first real City Council meeting snuck up on me! Much of the agenda will be familiar if you followed last week’s Executive Committee meeting. SmartTrack makes its debut, the budget schedule gets settled, and Mammoliti’s in trouble again.

City Hall

Budget

♫ It’s the most wonderful time of the year… ♫ That’s right, BUDGET TIME! This year the process is more leisurely, although I will miss the symbolism of the budget coinciding with Hanukkah, a holiday that reminds us “doing more with less” is often a miracle.

  • Here’s the 2015 budget process schedule. It officially launches January 20, with public presentations February 2-3. It goes to City Council March 10.

  • Four times a year, the Executive Committee gets reports on how the City’s actual revenues and expenses compare to its budget, as well as year-end predictions. This is the last set of reports, so the final figure won’t be much different.

    The capital budget covers big long-term projects, like buying land, building libraries, or upgrading infrastructure. Under-spending doesn’t always mean costs are lower than expected—most under-spending in the report is because of project delays. If you’re curious about how the Union Station revitalization is going or how much the Fort York library cost to build, take a gander.

    It looks a lot better than it actually is because the City has deferred a lot of expensive capital work. Toronto Water, TTC and TCHC all have billions of dollars’ worth of state of good repair backlog.

    The operating budget is for the day-to-day costs of running the city. I could do a whole post on this, but in my opinion these are the most interesting points:

    • Our current surplus is largely due to 1) a lot of vacant positions—that means salaries that don’t have to be paid. However, this can mean the quality of services and the City’s ability to bring in more revenue (e. g. processing applications, tickets, etc.) suffer; and 2) higher than expected revenue from the much-maligned Land Transfer Tax.

    • Revenue from traffic tickets has been plummeting at an alarming and unnatural rate for the past few years. The 2014 take is expected to be 33% lower than last year’s. One possible explanation is that the police force, whose budget has been flatlined, is getting back at the City in an incredibly passive-aggressive and petty way by deliberately issuing less parking tickets. It would really be nice to find out sometime soon, Bill, if you’re reading this! Thanks!

Dubiously Sustainable Forms of Transportation

  • SmartTrack! Well, a motion requestion a report on what a work plan for SmartTrack would entail. These things are always a long process.

    For an in-depth and critical look at the origin of SmartTrack, check out the three-part series by Toronto’s own Transit Santa Steve Munro (one, two, three).

  • The Island Yacht Club is way behind on its rent to Parks, Forestry & Rec. It was founded over sixty years ago, when Jews weren’t allowed into existing sailing clubs. After a fire destroyed their clubhouse in 2004, members scattered to other marinas, which totally take Jews now. So they’re negotiating a bailout (heh) with the City.

Planning

Shut the Fuck Up, Drunken Hipsters

Miscellaneous


Corrections? Additions? Let me know, and I’ll see you at Council!

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