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Budget Season is Back

We’re coming up to the City’s second pandemic budget. Every City division is again being asked to build their operating and capital budgets in a way that addresses the ongoing financial challenges created by COVID-19. The full budget, which includes 30 City divisions, Toronto Police Services, and TTC, will launch in January, but we already have access to the City’s rate-supported budget.

The rate-supported budget includes Toronto Water, Solid Waste Management Services, and the Toronto Parking Authority (Green P). These three departments present budgets separately from other City departments because they are entirely funded by their own user fees. Water, garbage and recycling collection, and Green P Parking are parts of your everyday life that have no dependence on property taxes. Hence “rate-supported” for these budgets. These three budgets are a little easier to look at because they have not been devastated by the impacts of COVID-19, although they are being hit by inflation this year. Still, staff are presenting these budgets with economic recovery top of mind. Councillors will get a chance to do a deep dive and ask our questions at Budget Committee tomorrow morning. Let’s take look at what the rate-supported budget is proposing for the services you rely on:

 

Toronto Water Toronto Water’s 2022 budget will ensure that the City continues to provide quality drinking water and wastewater treatment services. It will also address the impact of extreme storms, basement flooding, aging infrastructure, and significant city growth. The recommended budget consists of:

  • A $1.4 billion operating budget

  • A $1.4 billion 2022 capital budget

  • A $15.1 billion ten-year capital budget plan

This is the largest capital program delivered by Toronto Water in its history. This capital work includes investment in new assets and the renewal of existing infrastructure, especially in our growth areas. As many of you know, Toronto Water is currently racing to catch up with growth in demand on sewers by completing a project at Leslie and Sheppard. At Council’s request, the ten-year capital plan brings all of our transit growth areas up-to-date within a decade and is funded entirely from reserves. Toronto Water does not rely on debt to finance capital projects.

Watermain replacement is one of the many important types of capital project completed by Toronto Water. The operating budget recommends a 3% rate increase in 2022. If approved, the average household would see a $29 annual cost increase next year. It’s important to remember that we can all be “average” consumers of water. Your water bill isn’t based on the size of your home, it comes down to how well you conserve water and how well we all adapt our properties to absorb storm water. Check out the City’s helpful webpage for tips on how to reduce your water usage and save money.

 

Solid Waste Management Someone once asked me why we can’t just call this the Garbage Budget. The reason is that Solid Waste Management (SWM) really is a complex program with a range of services:

As you can see, the SWM 2022 budget supports much more than just solid waste pickup. It allows for state-of-good-repair infrastructure projects, the continued development of renewable energy infrastructure, and the advancement of our Long Term Waste Management Strategy, which supports waste reduction and the transition of our blue bin recycling program to Extended Producer Responsibility, as required by the Provincial Government. The recommended budget consists of:

  • A $377.8 million operating budget

  • A $69.7 million 2022 capital budget

  • A $850 million ten-year capital budget plan

The price tag for the ten-year capital budget is needed for SWM to complete additional organic processing facilities and prepare for future landfill capacity as we reach the end of use of Green Lane landfill. On the operating side, your bin collection days will continue as usual. We will continue to have Environment Days at the Victoria Park transfer station, and we’ll return to holding one in the Old Cummer GO Station parking lot. There is one service in the budget that I’m working to improve: emptying garbage and recycling bins in our parks. The proposed budget keeps this service level the same as this past year, but I know that overflowing garbage cans in parks is one of the most frequent complaints we hear. I’ve asked staff to prepare a briefing on how this program is delivered and how much it would cost to pick up garbage in our parks more frequently. Stay tuned for that one.

I've heard from many of you who are concerned about overflowing bins in parks like this. I'm working to see if we can increase service levels and have these bins cleared more regularly.

This budget is proposing a rate increase of 3% this year and each year until 2031 to ensure that SWM can maintain or enhance service levels and fund their many capital projects. These multiple year increases will be the biggest source of debate when the rate budgets come to Council in December. What is most important is to continue on your own quest to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Keep your eye on your black bin. If you notice you aren’t filling it up, you can give us a call to help you downsize your bin and reduce your solid waste bill.

 

Toronto Parking Authority (Green P) The Toronto Parking Authority (TPA), better known as Green P, is the largest municipally-owned parking and bike share operator in North America. Green P manages 18,000 pay-and-display and 40,000 off-street parking spots in our city. They offer rates slightly lower than competitors and still return an average of over $60 million in revenue to the City each year. They also operate Toronto’s Bike Share program, currently operating in 20 of Toronto's wards. You may not have noticed the rapid growth of Bike Share as we don’t have any stations up in Don Valley North yet, but it now has 6,850 bikes in use at 625 stations and has over 460,000 members.

The TPA board presents its budget to the City each year so we can take a look at its yearly operations and long-term plans. This year, the TPA budget proposes a parking rate freeze to encourage the return of customers and support local Business Improvement Areas. Green P has also expanded to visitor parking in many condos downtown. I’ll be asking about the possibility of bringing this up to our area. My colleagues downtown tell me that condo boards find TPA to be a great partner to work with, and that affordable visitor parking leads to condo residents parking properly in their own spots. We may need solutions like this to manage parking along our fast-growing Sheppard corridor from Bayview all the way out to Victoria Park.

 

This is just the start to budget season, and the beginning of a conversation I want to have with you about our priorities here in Don Valley North. Let me know what you think and don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions. I’m here to make sure your voice is heard at City Hall and work together to find solutions for our neighbourhoods.

 

RapidTO Update I’ve heard from many residents concerned about a flyer that they’ve received about proposed bus lanes on Don Mills, Sheppard, and Victoria Park that is so misleading I feel I must clarify:

  1. The City is not proposing Bus-Only lanes for Sheppard Ave or Victoria Park Ave.

  2. Don Mills Rd has had dedicated HOV lanes for over fifteen years but these are not 24/7, nor is there any proposal to make them so.

  3. November 28th is not a deadline to stop a Bus-Only lane on any of these streets, but it is a deadline for something else.

Read on:

  1. November 28th is the deadline to take an online survey for the City of Toronto RapidTO first phase of consultation on what criteria the City should use to study bus/streetcar network improvements. The recommended improvements themselves will be proposed in a later phase and lots of local consultation will happen then.

  2. Don Mills Rd has had HOV lanes from Overlea Blvd to Finch Ave for over fifteen years. These function Monday through Friday, from 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM and from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM. These are not painted red as some newer installations are, and yet, they function very well. As a result, the Don Mills bus route is one of the most efficient routes in the TTC, ferrying riders between Steeles Ave, the Sheppard subway, and Pape Station on Line 2, and will soon be a major carrier to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

  3. In 2020, the City classified a number of major suburban avenues for study as part of RapidTO. The avenues were organized into Groups A, B, and C. At that time, I moved a motion that Sheppard Avenue be added to Group C because it was already being studied by the TTC to determine how we will move traffic along Sheppard given the Province’s subway extension is at least 20 years away. It makes sense for the City and the TTC to share information and not end up with conflicting reports.

Sheppard Ave East is difficult to study at the moment as it is facing the challenge of the Ministry of Transport’s bridge rehabilitation and will be for several more months. As for concrete proposals, stay tuned to this E-Blast. If there is ever a proposal to alter Sheppard Ave, Victoria Park Ave, or Don Mills Rd, regular readers of this E-Blast will be the first to know. Below is the flyer that was distributed to residents:

 

Planning & Growth Update North York Community Council – November 23, 2021 Next Tuesday is the final North York Community Council for the year, and there are a few Don Valley North-specific items on the agenda that I wanted to bring to your attention: NY28.10 - Preliminary Report - 1 Greenbriar Road and 635 Sheppard Avenue East Staff have done a preliminary review of the application which proposes to redevelop property and build an 11-storey mixed-use residential/commercial building. The building will contain 134 new residential units and 445 square metres of commercial space. The preliminary report provides an overview of all the relevant bylaws and policies that the proposal must comply with and identifies issues in the proposal that staff will review further and work with the applicant to resolve. This preliminary report, as all preliminary reports do, recommends that staff schedule a public consultation meeting with the Councillor. If the recommendations are approved, we can expect the consultation meeting to take place early in the New Year. NY28.16 - Parking and Traffic Regulations - Thomas Clark Way Thomas Clark Way is an unassumed road which means it is publicly accessible but does not meet the municipal standards necessary before the City "assumes" it—at which point it would become a public road. Work is ongoing to improve the road such that it can be assumed by the City, including widening certain stretches of the road. In the interim of these improvements, our office has been pushing for more immediate solutions to resolve some of the traffic, parking, and enforcement concerns that many residents have told us about. The recommendations in this report reflect these efforts and make improvements that can be quickly implemented. Included in the recommendations is the authorization of a 30km/h speed limit and reducing street-level parking at the narrowest parts of the road, allowing traffic to flow better and more safely. If you have any questions about the above agenda items or about any other planning related matter in the Ward, you can reach me at Scott.Prada-Simons@toronto.ca or (416) 338-2665.

 

Vaccines for Kids Ages 5-11 Yesterday, Mayor John Tory and Dr. Eileen de Villa provided an update on the Team Toronto Kids COVID-19 vaccination plan for 5 to 11 year-olds in the City of Toronto. As announced earlier this month, Team Toronto has been developing the vaccination plan for this age group for several weeks. The initial vaccine roll-out will include school based clinics in 30 Toronto neighbourhoods over a three to four week period. A mobile school clinic model has been developed in partnership between Team Toronto partners, Toronto Public Health (TPH) and the city’s four public school boards. Strategically positioning school clinics, more than 390 schools and more than 55,000 children will be able to receive their COVID-19 vaccine through 230 clinics in 30 priority neighbourhoods. More clinics will be added and a full list of schools will be released in the coming weeks. I want to share the City's helpful website with information about COVID-19 vaccines for children:

Vaccine Passports Proof of vaccination is now in effect for select non-essential settings in Ontario. If you need to print or download your proof of immunization, you can do so by visiting covid19.ontariohealth.ca or calling the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900. For more information on the vaccine passport, visit the link below:


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