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Toronto homeowners will pay a total of 3.58 per cent more in property taxes this year, or an extra $104 on the bill of an average $665,605 home.

City council approved Mayor John Tory’s proposed hike — 2.55 per cent, plus the ongoing levy to fund housing and transit projects — by a 21-4 vote on Thursday.

Attempts by centrist and left-leaning councillors to boost the annual rate hike by extra amounts ranging from 0.002 per cent to 2 per cent failed, with Tory’s council allies standing firm behind his plan and anywhere from five to eight councillors voting for the bigger hikes.

Council will spend the rest of Thursday debating what gets funded in budgets now set, including senior government contributions, at $13.47 billion for city operating expenses including services and staff costs, and $40.67 billion for capital spening on roads, bridges and other hard costs.

Mayor John Tory, speaking to reporters before the meeting, said his fifth city budget strikes the right balance with neither “service shock” in the form of cuts or “sticker shock” with a tax bill dramatically outpacing inflation.

“This budget moves our city forward in a balanced, responsible way,” Tory said, adding he was given a “very strong mandate” from Torontonians in last fall’s civic election to continue that strategy.

Councillor Gord Perks told council that Tory’s argument that keeping property taxes low makes Toronto more affordable is dead wrong. Hiking taxes to fund more services for low-income residents, including many TTC users and Toronto Community Housing residents, is the way to do the most good, he said.

“We are falling behind,” funding the booming city, Perks (Ward 4 Parkdale-High Park) said, noting that per capita spending on city services has dropped in recent years while the need for homeless shelters, subsidized child care and affordable housing is steadily rising.

Council is expected to approve separate increases of 3 per cent, or $27 per household, for water usage and 2.2 per cent for garbage and recycling collection.

Speaking to reporters, Tory defended his proposed budget having a $79 million hole. It includes the expectation of $45 million from the federal government to compensate Toronto for costs related to an influx of refugees and $34 million in internal savings to be found by the civil service.

March 8, 2019

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