Mayor Chow to lower proposed tax increase in upcoming budget

Click to play video: 'Substantial property tax on the table for Toronto budget launch'
Substantial property tax on the table for Toronto budget launch
RELATED: Substantial property tax on the table for Toronto budget launch – Jan 8, 2024

After weeks of budget wrangling and public advocacy, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow is preparing to reveal a budget with a property tax increase somewhat smaller than staff previously pitched.

The Mayor’s Office confirmed to Global News that Chow will be pitching an 8 per cent property tax increase to go along with the 1.5 per cent City Building Levy to cover long-term capital costs. A total of 9.5 per cent, with the hopes of being more palatable for both homeowners and rival city councillors.

The drop of a full percentage point of property tax is expected to cost the city about $42 million, which will have to come out of the city’s reserve fund.

City staff have warned reserves are already low and had preferred to avoid raiding the fund to pay for Chow’s agenda of restoring city services. The mayor is scheduled to reveal more details in a morning announcement.

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Downtown councillor Chris Moise said he was pleased with the proposed drop, signaling it would be much more affordable than a double-digit increase.

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Earlier in the week, Chow also committed to dropping the tax rate for multi-residential property owners. The mayor said she hoped the move would prevent landlords from passing on their costs to tenants.

Still at large, is the question of whether the city will impose an additional 6 per cent tax increase to cover the cost of housing refugees and asylum seekers. On Wednesday afternoon the federal government hinted it could come to the city’s aid after weeks of silence.

The city’s decision to lay the onus on the feds upset local MPs and lit a fire under advocates but didn’t yield any concrete new promises.

Advocate and homeless outreach worker Diana McNally said local Liberal MPs shouldn’t think “their jobs are stable,” warning a lack of action had “alienated” many in the environmental, transit and housing space.

In Ottawa, the federal Immigration Minister teased that the money city hall says it so desperately needs could be on the way.

Marc Miller said the federal government would pony up another $362.4 million in housing assistance for provinces and cities. He said $100 million was for Quebec but refused to be drawn on how much might go to Toronto.

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“The City of Toronto will be getting a significant amount of this,” he said. “There will be significant amounts announced in the coming days, but it won’t be me announcing it.”

Chow will officially unveil her budget on Thursday morning. The location of her announcement — along the decommissioned Scarborough RT Line — may suggest money for stranded commuters in the east of the city could be on the table.

Chow will table her budget on Thursday, Feb. 1, and is planning to finalize and approve the document by Feb. 14.

Councillors will have an opportunity to suggest changes to the financial plan. Under the province’s strong mayor powers, Chow has the ability to veto those suggestions, a power she has said she doesn’t plan to use.

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