Mayor Rob Ford denounces property tax increase of 2.5 per cent

ABOVE: Rob Ford quick to denounce proposed 2014 budget. Mark Carcasole reports. 

TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford “guaranteed” he would not support the proposed city budget because it included a 2.5 per cent property tax hike, saying it was a return to the “gravy train” he campaigned against in 2010.

City Manager Joe Pennachetti said the 2.5 per cent increase would amount to an additional cost of $64 per home, breaking down to $28 for existing services, $23 for new facilities and enhancements and $13 for the Scarborough subway extension.

Ford promised the property tax increase in the 2014 budget would be 1.75 per cent, but the numbers are higher due to new expenditures such as the approved Scarborough subway plan.

"This is the gravy train all over again," said Ford in speech prior to the budget being presented in committee.

Council voted last month to extend the Bloor-Danforth line to the Scarborough Town Centre while increasing development charges and property taxes (0.5 per cent in each of 2014 and 2015, 0.6 per cent in 2016) to generate the approximately $910 million needed.

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WATCH: Norm Kelly not sure where Mayor Rob Ford got 1.75 per cent from.

Ford said at the time that he supported a “minimal” tax increase to fund the subway but Monday he resorted to his penny-pinching rhetoric in denouncing the proposed budget.

“In five days, as soon as they reduced my powers, all they’re doing is going back to the old tax and spend ways,” Ford said. “Getting back on the gravy train and spending and spending and spending.”

While the mayor blamed councillors for trying to increase taxes, the 2.5 per cent increase was proposed by city staff, not council.

Deputy mayor Norm Kelly said Monday that the city would be looking at a 0.9 per cent increase if nothing had changed over the previous year. But with council decisions, including the subway, that number was pushed up to 2.5 per cent, he said.

“[The Gravy Train] has to be one of the great campaign slogans ever in Canadian politics. Frankly, I’d be surprised if he didn’t go back to that,” Kelly said. “While that slogan is good at getting you elected, it doesn’t inform people in respect to a budget debate.”

Kelly added that he wasn’t sure how Ford came up with his 1.75 per cent hike.

“As explained to me, 1.75 came from out here,” Kelly said while grabbing at the air. “So I’m not sure where that came from. I would love to know. And I would love to know with more insight and precision how he would change that 0.9 per cent increase to something that would fit inside the 1.75 per cent bubble.”

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Former budget chief Shelley Carroll dismissed the mayor’s complaints that taxes are being hiked in spite of him, claiming the increase was forced in August “as the mayor knew it would be” when council supported extending the Bloor-Danforth subway line to the Scarborough Town Centre.

“As to the tax rate, it’s quite simply foolishness to think that something that happened a week ago to think the budget radically changed because of the mayor’s position,” she told reporters at city hall.

It’s still uncertain if the land transfer tax will finally be abolished, another Ford promise. Removing it could cost the city $20 million.

The budget includes hiring 81 new fire inspectors and 169 paramedics over the next three years. There will also be three new police recruit classes next year totalling 300 officers.

It also includes funding for two new libraries (one in Fort York and another in Scarborough) and three new recreation centres (Yorkway Community Centre, Parkway Forest and the Pan Am Sports Centre).

Staff recommendations were heard this morning at the executive committee meeting now chaired by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.

Kelly was given most of Mayor’s powers, including control over the city’s budget, after Ford was stripped of them during a special council meeting last week.

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