Councillors Unify On 2020 Budget (But Important Questions Remain)

Toronto City Council unanimously adopted its 2020 tax-supported operating and capital budget on Wednesday. Council came together in an unusual way to balance the City’s priorities and keep costs down for residents while investing in critical infrastructure projects.

Council approved a 2% property tax increase for residential properties and a 1% percent increase for commercial properties. As per provincial legislation, there will be no increase for multi-residential or apartment buildings. Additionally, the current City Building Levy will increase to 1.5%, bringing 2020 property taxes, along with other adjustments to 4.24%.

The budget’s goal is to keep the property tax increase for City operations at the level of inflation while preserving current services and investing in key Council approved priorities such as affordable housing, climate change, and transit.

John supports these new initiatives but has reservations about what wasn’t in the budget — specifically addressing the State of Good Repair projects needed around the city. John is concerned that lack of action to address the multi-billion-dollar backlog of SOGR that will only get worse over the next decade.

While the City Building Levy that is being rolled into tax rates will generate an estimated $6.6 billion in revenue that will go towards funding affordable housing and transit, the property tax increase doesn’t, for example, address the maintenance of the City’s major and local roads. The Transportation department’s capital plan notes that the City already considers 43% of Major Roads to be in poor condition or worse. Currently, the unfunded repair backlog for Major and Local Roads would cost over $1 billion. That number is expected to grow to $3.4 billion by 2029.

As much as John wants to encourage people to take public transit, bike, and walk, transportation infrastructure needs to work. It’s only reasonable that people get upset they are paying more in taxes while the state of their roads goes unaddressed.

John will continue to work with colleagues at Council to push for new revenue tools to help fund some of these priorities following up on the motion he moved that was adopted by Council in 2019. Some examples over the coming year are likely to include a levy on commercial parking and the introduction of a Vacant Homes tax.