The City of Toronto’s budget process is underway, with council set to vote on the Mayor’s proposed budget in February. Over the last few years, it has become impossible not to notice the sharp decline in the livability of our city. There has been a unmistakeable drop in the quality of our city services, which are becoming increasingly stretched. As we face an $815 million budget gap, Mayor Tory is planning to further cut funding to city services and increase user fees. At the same time, he is increasing the Toronto Police Service’s Budget by nearly 50 million dollars.
We are a group of property owners in Toronto who support an increase in property taxes as a way to more equitably fund essential public services, NOT to fund police. We are coming together to say that as homeowners, we want to pay higher property taxes so that we and our neighbours can access the services we all need to thrive in this city. We believe that increases in inequality are a direct result of decisions City Council has made over the last several years. They have chosen to keep tax increases below inflation, while, at the same time, choosing to increase an already bloated police budget.
Toronto’s largest budget item, by far, is dedicated to the Toronto Police Service. Nearly a quarter (23.7%) of our property taxes goes directly to policing in our city. This is despite long standing calls from marginalized communities and front-line workers to redirect this funding to poverty reduction strategies and other services that show actual evidence of being effective in the prevention of crime. Mayor Tory himself has admitted to lacking evidence that the police will actually increase safety in this city– and has said that he doesn’t need any.
Property taxes are the most fair and reliable way to fund our municipal public services. Unlike Mayor Tory, we do not lament an increase in property taxes. Homelessness and a marked decline in essential city services are the direct consequences of the ongoing decision to keep property tax increases below inflation (which is, effectively, a budget cut). Over the past year, we have seen violent encampment evictions– using money that could have housed, rather than criminalized, our neighbours living in city parks.
Rather than leveraging property taxes to fund services, Mayor Tory and city council have decided, again and again, to use the already insufficient increases to further fund police and to criminalize racialized and poor people in our city.
As homeowners, we’re calling on Mayor Tory and Toronto City Council to not only raise property taxes, but to use this revenue to fund services that will benefit all of our city’s residents.