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Recession budget

Toronto Mayor David Miller unveiled a budget yesterday that will hike homeowner taxes by four per cent. But the impact of hidden increases more than doubles the pain, say opposition councillors.

Toronto Mayor David Miller unveiled a budget yesterday that will hike homeowner taxes by four per cent. But the impact of hidden increases more than doubles the pain, say opposition councillors.

“We believe the tax increase is 10 per cent, and that’s what we should be talking about,” Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong told reporters. “Those are the fees and charges we’ve been seeing charged to the taxpayers and families across the city.”

The budget doesn’t acknowledge the rise in water bills and the new vehicle registration and garbage collection fees, he said.

The city’s $8.7-billion operating budget — up $500 million from a year ago — was unveiled by Miller and budget chief Shelley Carroll. It offers only modest increases to some programs, but promises there won’t be any major service cuts.

On an average home assessed at $387,000, the hike translates into an $89 increase in the tax bill — which the mayor says works out to about a quarter per day.

Pressures caused by the recession — including higher welfare rates and lower revenues from a tumbling housing market — mean this year’s budget is focused on maintaining the status quo.

The budget doesn’t offer any relief to residents who may have suddenly lost a job. But low-income seniors and disabled residents whose income falls below a certain threshold may qualify for a cancellation or deferral of the property tax hike.

“We’re asking people who are in a different position, who are employed, to pay around 25 cents a day to make sure that we freeze TTC fares, that we build a great city, and that we help the most vulnerable,” Miller told reporters yesterday.

The budget will be considered in the coming weeks, with time set aside for public input, and a final vote by city council March 31 and April 1.

While residents are facing a four per cent property tax hike, businesses will only pay one-third of that because of a policy of easing commercial property tax rates.

 
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