February 17, 2016 3:32 pm
Updated: February 17, 2016 8:25 pm

Toronto city councillors debate 2016 operating budget and funding for police

WATCH ABOVE: City's passing of a 1.3 per cent residential property tax hike was not without a hitch, as a group of anti-poverty protesters angrily interrupted the city council budget debate. Peter Kim reports.

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TORONTO — Mayor John Tory and budget committee chair Gary Crawford outlined their approach to this year’s budgetary process Wednesday, focusing on balance and investment in key areas in the face of a ballooning police budget.

At issue is the Toronto Police Service’s $1.006 billion dollar operating budget, which is up for debate. Their budget is the single biggest line item this year and at least one councillor, Michael Thompson, said he would like to see it reduced.

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“What we do know is that we have to arrest the police budget and quite frankly, it’s my view that it’s out of control,” said Thompson, adding that he plans on introducing a series of motions that would freeze the police budget to a zero dollar increase.

READ MORE: City hall battle brewing over billion-dollar police budget

These amounts would be around $25 million less than what police are currently asking, according to the councillor. But city hall documents reveal that the figure is around $27 million compared to last years operating budget.

He added that the controversial Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) program was another issue of contention, calling it an “opportunity for overtime” and to “crack heads” in the community that also “creates a huge problem with respect to the relationship with the police.”

Tory agreed with Thompson’s calls to lower the police budget, but said this should be done gradually in consultation with experts, and not this year.

“It’s like when you try and lose weight,” he said. “There are two approaches: one is you can adopt a methodical, steady approach and change how you do things and lose 10 to 15 pounds. But you can also lose 10 pounds by having your arm cut off. “

Tory said future budgetary expenditures should have a “direct benefit” for the people of Toronto and said the budget would focus on targeted new investment on areas such as transit and housing.

The total operating budget, prior to council debate, is $10 billion and also included a 1.30 per cent property tax hike.

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