Hold on to your hats Torontonians, because the 2024 budget plan for our beloved city is here, and it's got some twists and turns that may come as a surprise. Here are the dancing highlights:
1. Tax Hike Tango
Get ready to dig a bit deeper into those pockets because the proposed budget brings a double-digit tax hike. We're talking about a historic property tax bump of 10.5%, and if the feds don't kick in $250 million for refugee housing, we might be looking at a whopping 16.5%. Budget chief Shelley Carroll is calling that extra bit a "federal impact levy," but hey, it's all to avoid those heartbreaking images of folks camped out on the streets.
2. Fare Freeze Fiesta
Good news for TTC riders – your fares are hitting the pause button in 2024! The budget proposes freezing TTC fares and slaps a cool $1.231 billion on the table for TTC and Wheel-Trans. That's a 28% boost from last year. Plus, with some provincial cash in the mix, we're aiming to bring the transit system back to 97% pre-pandemic levels. Last year saw a 10-cent fare hike, but this time, it's all about keeping it steady.
3. Policing and Safety Samba
The city's got its eyes on community safety with a net police budget of $1.174 billion, a slight uptick from last year. But wait, there's more! $19 million in fresh funds are flowing into community safety, hiring new firefighters, paramedics, and beefing up 911 staff. We're talking about tackling crime and giving our emergency services the backup they need.
4. Spend-a-palooza and Save-shindig
Even with a budget deficit of nearly $1.8 billion, Toronto's planning to splash $152 million on new services. We're talking shelter and housing initiatives, community safety, and even a boost for libraries. But don't think it's all about spending – some departments are tightening their belts, like the city clerk's office and the cybersecurity crew, saving some serious moolah.
5. Snow Showdown
Hold on, winter warriors! If the budget gets the green light, say goodbye to 'windrow clearing' after this winter; that's the service that clears your driveway openings from snow, post pow-pass. It might even save about $16 million, so it's a snowy sacrifice we may have to make.
What's next on this budget rollercoaster? After some council sessions and a trio of telephone town halls with the mayor, we'll get a chance to voice our thoughts in late January. For the final council vote, mark your calendars for a Valentine's Day date on February 14th. Will Toronto's 2024 budget be a love letter or a heartbreak? Stay tuned, 6ix!