What happened at City Hall this week

Proposed revenue tools cut 20 years of property tax trends loose. In a break from traditional Toronto budgets stretching back 20 years, the City is proposing a different direction to the revenue it collects from residents. The mayor’s Executive Committee considered a myriad of taxes, levies and other ways the city could raise money on Thursday – some for next year, some for years in the future. City Manager Peter Wallace presented three items at the same time, despite that they are individual items in their own right: 1) Taxes that will come into play next year (property tax, land transfer tax and vehicle tax); 2) Taxes that could come into play over the next decade (road tolls); 3) Asset optimization review (Toronto Hydro and parking). All three areas expand the category of money the city collects from people who live, work and play in the city. The straight talk from the City manager is that more money is necessary or services will be cut.

Property taxes for homeowners proposed to increase in 2017. A motion before councillors this month calls for a 5% increase to property tax, phased in over five years – starting with a 1% increase next year (assuming commercial and industrial tax rates increase). The argument in the report is that municipal residential tax rates have dropped from .8% in 1998 to less than .5% in 2016. “As a result, while homeowners have become wealthier since amalgamation, the City is taxing them for a diminishing share of that wealth.” The solution is property-tax increases, introduced through various mechanisms: a dedicated capital levy of .5% a year, and amalgamated land transfer taxes. The nuts and bolts will be discussed in detail at budget committee next Tuesday.

City’s latest response to poverty. City staff brought recommendations on the eligibility requirements for Toronto’s Housing Stabilization Fund during Tuesday’s Community Development and Recreation Committee, but poverty activists say the changes are still not enough. Members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) came to city hall to advocate for wider eligibility criteria. (Read more.) Then, later in the week at the mayor’s late-night Executive Committee on Thursday, the TO Prosperity: Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy was adopted for implementation, suggesting a TTC discount program for low-income transit riders starting in March 2018.