Councillor Shelley Carroll

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Jan 20 - Ouch! Saying No to Public Health

The first of 6 intensive days of Budget finalizing has begun. My fellow Budget Advisory Committee members (abbreviation: BAC . You will see it most every day between now and when council approves the final budget a month from now.) and I will meet all day today and every day next week to prepare something semi-final for its next hurdle.

We eat breakfast together every morning at 8:30 and then convene in Committee Room #1 to deliver endless bad news. At press time: Our shortfall stands at $119 million and that's after our budget assumes about $118 million worth of uncertainties from the Province. There has been more line-by-line digging this year but we are still short. We vow at breakfast to spend the next six days whittling the shortfall down to $80 million.

Where's the real problem? We continue to wait for the Province to pay its bill on downloaded services. The legislation says the Province will pay for welfare and related costs in an 80/20 split with the City. However, the bill is calulated using a complicated maze of per diem rates on shelter beds and social supports and all are calculated using 1998 rates and not 2005 dollar rates. The difference is $72 million and you my friend will be paying the difference with your property tax dollars. Its all taxes, yes, but shouldn't municipal taxes be used for property related municipal services and shouldn't income tax be used for income related supports? Me thinks.

The rest of the shortfall is, as usual, the TTC. That one is massively complicated by other levels of Governmental confusion. I'll blab on it next week.

So today Public Health came to BAC with a good news budget. Min of Health, Smitherman, having created his own new revenue stream, has provided municipal Public Health with extra funds to enhance services and bring mandated programs to a greater level of compliance. Some this year and next year we are to be returned to pre-Harris gov't levels of cost-sharing at a ratio of 75/25. But with no promise of the aforementioned social downloading bill being paid on time this year, BAC supports the Shirley Hoy's proposal to scoop the new money and use it in badly needed community and neighborhood services that have something to do with citizens' health in the preventative sense.