July 18, 2011
Toronto's public works committee gave the go-ahead to a controversial series of cuts suggested by an independent accounting firm last week that included a reduction in street cleaning and snow removal, and an end to fluoride in the city's drinking water.
A 44-page report prepared for the city by KPMG identified about $15 million in savings out of the roughly $1-billion budget of the Public Works and Infrastructure division.
Other proposals included reducing the city's waste-diversion rate, trimming its cycling infrastructure and further privatization of garbage collection.
The committee endorsed all of the suggestions but exactly which services will be cut will be determined later.
In September, Mayor Rob Ford's executive committee will have the final say over which items are sent to city council.
Tough choices ahead
Public works chairman Denzil Minnan-Wong, said some of the more controversial recommendations likely won't be on the table.
"Some of the more difficult ones will include eliminating fluoride from the drinking water, the street sweeping and the snow removal is going to be a real challenge for the committee," the councillor said.
However, he said tough choices need to be made to rein in the city's massive budget shortfall.
"We have a $770-million dollar problem staring us in the face and we have to move aggressively to address that or there's going to be a massive tax increase,"
Minnan-Wong said. Councillor Gord Perks said there isn't enough information to make such difficult decisions.
"These things actually matter to people and we need to have answers to that before we go forward with any kind of cuts at all," he said.
Some services 'needed'
Heather Marshall from the Toronto Environmental Alliance urged councillors to think carefully about which services to slash.
That includes a proposal to cut the city's community environment days, which Marshall said brings in more than 30 per cent of the total household waste each year.
"Clearly this is a much needed service and much used service," she said.
The city had set up an extra room to hold the hordes of angry citizens who were expected to show up, but only 26 speakers appeared.
Toronto is faced with a looming $774-million budget shortfall.
In the spring, the city kicked off a comprehensive review of all city services, how they are provided, and the fees people pay for them.
Earlier Monday another KPMG report suggested eliminating pet licensing and streamlining business licensing, as well as outsourcing animal care.
As Originally Published: Public works committee plans $15M in cuts