Not Another Fucking Budget Overview

I’ve lost my passion for covering the City budget. Partly the clinical depression, I think, but also—it just never changes. There’s only so many times you can write another fucking “after the City Manager warns Council they can no longer ‘kick the can down the road’ for another year, Council votes to kick the can down the road” piece. It’s all too predictable.

Look, I’m not even going to bother with full sentences:

  • relying on ever-rising MLTT revenue
  • hiking user fees and switching to “cost recovery” for everything that isn’t nailed down
  • drawing on reserve funds and putting off projects
  • saving money by not hiring people, then services suck when divisions can’t hire enough people to meet demand
  • the TTC and TCHC state of good repair money pit
  • last-minute horse-trading
  • councillors whining about how people who own homes “can’t afford” higher taxes to justify why we can’t fund services for goddamn babies and people who literally can’t afford homes

In many ways, the status quo is baked into the budget. It’s not just the backwards way they do it, where they vote to set the tax rate and then the budget itself. (This goes back several years—one of the ways Tory is just a genteel version of the Fords.) Even the fact that the residential property tax rate is set at the “rate of inflation” means that you set the debate in certain terms—not thinking of revenue as something that has to meet the City’s actual budget needs. Then they squish and pinch and squeeze the budget to fit in ways they hope won’t be too obvious to moneyed home-owners.

No, I’m thinking of stuff like the opaque and fundamentally subjective and arbitrary practice of excluding some “new and enhanced” and Council-approved programs and services from the preliminary budget. Leaving that stuff out isn’t always necessary (or, alternatively, sufficient) to balance the preliminary budget. But it forces people to go beg and agitate and lobby and expend all this energy on shit like inflationary increases to the Student Nutrition Program—things that should have been included to begin with, and inevitably are by the end, used as trading chips on the Council floor. It makes funding things that Council literally already voted for feel like a tangible “win”. Like the Red Queen, you tire people out by keeping them running just to stay where they are. I’ve been running on this fucking treadmill for over five years and I’m tired and I don’t want to do it any more.

TL;DR: After the City Manager warns Council they can no longer “kick the can down the road” for another year, Council votes to kick the can down the road please kill me oh fuck it i’ll find a Featured Image later *hits “publish”*

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