Monday, February 9, 2009

Property tax hike seems inevitable


Last Updated: 9th February 2009, 4:06am

A rough economy will mean tougher times for homeowners who can expect the city to hit them with a property tax increase of about 4% this year, City Councillor Paul Ainslie said yesterday.

With Mayor David Miller set to unveil the city's budget tomorrow morning, Ainslie -- a member of the budget committee -- wouldn't reveal the exact amount of this year's planned property tax hike, other than to say homeowners can expect to pay around 4% more. Last year's property tax increase was 3.75%.

Councillor Rob Ford charged this year's hike can be attributed to misspending under the current administration.

"We're looking at at least $100, maybe $200 of income gone" each year, he said yesterday.

"People are going to start moving out of the city if we don't start cutting some of this spending now."

Some of that misspending, Ford said, has been found in the city's welfare department.

Following a report about Toronto's increasing welfare claims in the Sunday Sun, Ford said poor budgeting by the mayor's office is to blame for the city's dwindling welfare reserves, which were depleted from $94.4 million in 2003 to just $8.3 million in 2007.

Ford said if the city was managed in a better manner, city council wouldn't have to look to taxpayers for help in dealing with rising welfare costs.

"That money (the reserves) should still be there," he said.

"There's absolutely no need for us to be raising property taxes. There has been a ton of money being wasted for years," he said. "Who knows what other crazy ideas they'll come up with to raise taxes?"

Ainslee said the welfare reserve cash went to maintaining the city, which he said is constantly in a fight with the province for adequate funding.

But Ford said maybe the rules for collecting welfare should be changed.

The councillor said welfare recipients could do plenty of jobs around Toronto, which would, in turn, alleviate some of the strain faced by maintenance crews.

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