Mayor John Tory wants to fund $1.5 million for additional policing efforts from one of the city’s rainy-day reserve funds after already promising the money without council consent.
After announcing three levels of government would fund a $4.5 million, 11-week initiative to address gun violence by putting more officers into problem areas to do intelligence-led policing, Tory is asking the budget committee to approve the increased spending for this year as well as contribute $1.5 million from the city’s tax stabilization reserve fund to cover the city’s share.
Tory made the announcement earlier this month following an increase in shooting incidents, saying he’d brought together three levels of government.
However, only the federal funds were both new and committed. The province’s share comes from a previously committed $25 million under Premier Doug Ford. The money Tory was promising he has no power to approve unilaterally without council.
In a letter to the budget committee, which meets Sept. 6, Tory asks councillors to approve the expense. The final decision will be up to a full meeting of council in October.
The city has a policy that its tax rate stabilization reserve — intended to help balance the city’s books in the event of unplanned operating shortfalls, not a source of ongoing operating funds to cover gaps — has a target balance of about $44 million, staff reported during the 2019 budget deliberations. The balance in 2019 was expected to be just $15 million. In the absence of a council policy to raise taxes to meet operating needs, council has frequently pulled money from this and other reserve funds to balance the books — the type of budgeting previous city manager Peter Wallace described as “kicking the can down the road.”
During 2019 budget talks, several councillors pushed to raise property taxes in order to fund community programs or to reduce the cost of the TTC, which was rejected by a majority of their colleagues. Attempts to then use reserve funds to do the same — including an effort by Councillor Josh Mattlow (Ward 12 Toronto—St. Paul’s) to increase the number of dedicated youth hubs across the city — were also largely rejected.
On Friday, Matlow called the mayor’s plan both “reckless” and “irresponsible.”
“The mayor’s role is to be the leader of council, not to dictate to it,” he said.
He said council should be “thoughtfully and proactively” investing in preventative measures that support youth in their communities, not put them under surveillance.
Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat said that Tory “will continue to advocate for the federal government to invest in the anti-gun violence plan approved by city council last year” which includes largely unfunded community programs approved by council with much fanfare.
“Following his meeting with Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau earlier this month, the Mayor made it clear that he raised this specific investment request during their meeting,” Peat said.
The federal government, though acknowledging community supports are essential, has not given any confirmation of specific ideas or additional money or that they plan on fulfilling the city’s remaining grant requests. Council was told by city staff earlier this year that a majority of those requests had been rejected.
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