Halfway through its fiscal year, the city of Toronto is posting an $188 million surplus. Most of the savings comes from a slowdown in hiring, more than expected revenues and savings in fuel costs. Is this a sign the city's finances are under control?
Has the gravy train come to a screeching halt at city hall? Mayor Rob Ford ran on a campaign of getting the city’s financial picture back to sanity. With Toronto posting another surplus only halfway through the year, his platform could be coming to light in his first term.
According to budget figures published Monday, the city is running about a $188 million surplus for the first six months of the fiscal year, which will be dropped down to $115 million after the city pays all of its bills at the end of the year.
The numbers suggest that more than half of the savings came from a substantial slow down in hiring. This has left approximately 1,800 city positions, or 3.5 percent of the workforce, vacant at the end of the month of June.
Meanwhile, the city has received approximately $42 million more than expected from the land transfer tax. This tax, which applies when a property is transferred from one owner to another, is something that Ford has vowed to eliminate by the end of his mayoral tenure.
Another factor to the surplus is that the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is expecting to generate more than $5 million in revenue and save another $10 million from fuel costs and a reduction in demand for its Wheel-Trans service.
Other savings include the Toronto Police Services anticipating savings of $2 million after showing that a lot of its officers are taking unpaid leave and the Toronto Public Library will post nearly $3 million in savings from this year’s labour disruptions.
From left to right: City Councillors Norm Kelly, Mike Del Grande and Shelley Carroll.
Budget Chief Mike Del Grande, who has attempted to find efficiencies in a lot of areas, such as trying to get his committee to remove fluoride in the water ($2 million savings), told the Globe and Mail that the surplus is another step in the right direction.
But City Councillor Gord Perks, an opponent of the mayor’s, told the Toronto Sun that he is worried about heading into budget considerations before the final surplus numbers have been released because the Ford administration will introduce a “Chicken little budget.”
“It has been five or six years since we got good projections writing a budget,” said Perks. “I’m worried we’re going to be pressured to make deeper cuts than we need to because we have the same pattern of surpluses showing up and being pushed into producing a budget without real numbers.”
This comes as the mayor heads to Chicago for a business mission.