City of Toronto unveils proposed budget for 2018

Toronto has got its first glimpse at where the city's money will be spent in 2018, but it will come at an increased cost to homeowners. The proposed 2018 operational budget was tabled at a committee meeting at City Hall on Thursday. It is made up of $10.97 billion in spending on core city services and projects. It includes a 2.1 per cent hike in residential property taxes.

"For the fourth year in row, property taxes will be kept at or below the rate of inflation," budget chief Gary Crawford says.

A preliminary capital budget for the next 10 years was also unveiled. It includes $279m in new funding to repair Toronto Community Housing homes, $486m for the proposed revitalization of George Street, and billions towards SmartTrack and the Scarborough Subway extension. An intial funding shortfall of $510m has been offset by a range of bridging strategies. That includes massive growth in revenue from the Municipal Land Transfer Tax. It's expected to rake in $793m in 2017, $85m more than expected.

Councillor Gord Perks says the city is relying too much on that tax, and believes residents are willing to stump up more in residential property tax to pay for services.

"For the fourth consecutive year, we're gambling on the real estate market," Perks says. "Torontonians tell me that they're willing to pay to make sure there's a seat on the bus for them."

It's a view shared by Social Planning Toronto's Sean Meagher, who expressed disappointment several items haven't been included in the budget, and will need to be debated further to ensure they are funded.

"Housing and transit and recreation programs that really support families -- we got a budget today that doesn't really support any of those things," Meagher says.

Implementing time-based two hour transfers for the TTC, discounted TTC fares for low-income transit users, and additional traffic wardens are some of the budget items that will need to be debated further.

Crawford says it's a balancing act, but he's confident the issues councillors and residents feel passionate about will get funding.

"As we go this process you will see I think, through the Budget Committee, Executive and up to Council that those will continue to be priorities, and they will be priorities that we'll be funding."

The proposed budget will be reviewed and tweaked in several meetings before it heads to Council for sign-off in February.