Two day budget battle begins at Toronto city hall

WATCH: Homeowners say they are willing to pay more for better service. Mark McAllister reports. 

TORONTO – City councillors decided Wednesday to set the coming property tax hike at 2.23 per cent rather than the 1.75 per cent demanded by Mayor Rob Ford.

This will be the first of two days scheduled for budget discussions at city council.

Earlier this month, the city’s executive committee approved a residential property tax increase of 2.23 per cent, which includes a 0.5 per cent levy for the Scarborough subway construction.

“This is an anti-ford property tax increase,” Giorgio Mammoliti told reporters prior to entering council chambers. “I think you’ll see me move a zero per cent tax increase. We said we’d find saving within the bureaucracy.”

The 2.23 per cent property tax hike would have been higher if not for a decision to offset the revenue with the land transfer tax. Every year, the city estimates how much money the land transfer tax will generate, the executive committee voted to increase that estimate to offset lost revenue from a lower property tax hike. In a presentation Wednesday, city manager Joe Pennachetti said the city does not support raising that estimate in order to keep taxes lower.

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Giorgio Mammoliti: I don’t think the city works with two mayors 

What does the city’s budget pay for? Some highlights:

  • Additional TTC funding
  • More paramedics
  • More fire prevention officers
  • New police officers
  • Increased funding for arts and culture
  • Opening new libraries

READ MORE: Ford vows savings, blames tax increase on councillors

But the property tax rate has been a source of political theatre since it was proposed in November.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford had promised a lower tax increase of 1.75 per cent and vows to introduce motions that may save the city $50 million. As of Wednesday morning however, he would not say how these “efficiencies” will be calculated.

“I’m putting stuff forward, I want to see what they’ll do,” Ford told reporters on Wednesday. “I want to see where they will put up the savings.”

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But he doesn’t think his motions will pass because there just isn’t “enough fiscally responsible councillors,” he said.

WATCH: Mayor Ford stands firm on savings recommendations despite warnings of city manager

His brother Doug took time to criticize his fellow councillors for being “undemocratic” after they voted 38-6 Wednesday morning to set the property tax rate at 2.23 per cent before debating what exactly it will pay for.

“I think its undemocratic, what you have to do is discuss the tax rate over two days, have a wholesome debate, if they are going to add to it or decrease it, there has to be a wholesome debate,” councillor Ford said. “It doesn’t look like they are going to do that.”

Also on the table will be questions over transit funding as well as the footing the bill for damage from the ice storm and summer flood.

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WATCH: Councilor Doug Ford rails against the “undemocratic” actions of Toronto City Council

Follow the budget debate with Global News reporter Jackson Proskow beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET.


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