Updating Toronto’s long-term financial plan

Mayor Olivia Chow and Members of City Council
Toronto City Hall
Attention: Sylwia Przezdziecki

Re: EX 7.1 — Updated Long-Term Financial Plan

Dear Mayor Chow and Councillors,

On behalf of our member resident associations, we applaud the steps being taken to deal with the fiscal crisis facing the City of Toronto.

We have attached comments on the measures proposed by staff and the additional recommendations added by the Executive Committee that are before you. We support ;many of the recommendations, but not all.

We strongly support asking the provincial government to provide a greater share of funding of social service programs which it mandates. We especially underline the need for both federal and provincial governments to provide greater financial support for social housing and public transit.

We urge caution on proposing new taxes such as a municipal sales tax. We note that a tax limited to sales in the City of Toronto will encourage buyers to shop elsewhere to avoid the tax, including on-line sites. A sales tax would need to be geographically broader to avoid harming the Toronto economy.

Far better for higher levels of government to accept full responsibility for paying for the social services which they mandate than to permit Toronto to implement a sales tax. And it would clearly be regressive to increase sales taxes that are disproportionately borne by low-income households, without also increasing property taxes on homeowners.

The recommendations before you are not sufficient to deal with the fiscal crisis.

We must collectively face the fact that it will be necessary to increase property tax revenues in order to rebuild financial reserves as well as to pay for the services needed to keep Toronto functioning as a workable, attractive, safe and livable city for all its residents. This past reluctance to face fiscal reality, plus provincial legislative actions, have exacerbated the City’s current financial crisis.

In addition to the matters raised in the staff report and by Executive Committee we would add three other issues and recommendations: 

  1. Property assessments 
    Property assessments do not reflect the current land values as reassessment has not occurred for several years.
    We recommend: 
    • That the City request the Province to expedite the reassessment of property values 
  2. GTA Municipalities to “speak as one voice” to Province 
    So many legislative measures introduced by the Province (e.g. Bill 109. Bill 23), have (and will in future) negatively impacted on the City of Toronto and all municipalities. There is a need for collective action by municipalities, particularly in the GTA, to advocate for the municipal interest in fiscal matters. We recommend: 
    • That the City work with GTA municipalities and beyond to speak as one voice to the Province in matters that affect the fiscal welfare of Toronto and other municipalities. 
  3. 2024 Property tax increase disclosure 
    We recommend:
    • That City Council request staff to provide estimates of property tax increases required to put the City on a stable financial footing, taking into consideration the need to protect older residents on fixed incomes, prior to determining the 2024 mill rate. 

Yours truly,

Geoff Kettel
Co-Chair, FoNTRA

Cathie Macdonald
Co-Chair, FoNTRA

Attachment: comments on specific recommendations