August 03, 2011
If Toronto councillors spare police and fire services from the budget axe, it will fall that much harder on libraries, social programs and other services dear to Torontonians’ hearts, says the city manager.
Joe Pennachetti made the remarks Wednesday in an interview about the city’s ongoing cross-department “efficiency review”, a follow-up to KPMG’s “core service” reports that caused an uproar by suggesting hundreds of millions of dollars in possible cuts.
The cuts include closing libraries, eliminating subsidies for 2,000 daycare spaces, cancelling grants for student nutrition and AIDs education, shutting long-term care homes, closing Riverdale farm and eliminating a bureau that helps deliver Christmas presents to poor children.
Pennachetti noted the reviews of how services can be done more efficiently — as opposed to whether they should be done at all — are meant to help all departments and agencies meet his directive to cut a total of $380 million, 10 per cent of spending, or more.
“That $380 million includes all emergency services. If council is not willing to look at 10 per cent for them, it will be worse for the other services that Torontonians said for the past two weeks are dear to their hearts.”
Requested cuts from police and fire total $127 million, fully one-third of Pennachetti’s across-the-board target and more than Toronto spends annually on its 1,512 parks.
Police Chief Bill Blair has warned that a roughly $90 million cut to his budget would sacrifice 750 officers and 400 civilian staff.
Fire Chief Bill Stewart recently gave the budget committee a report saying a $37 million budget cut translates into roughly 300 fewer firefighters.
In a recent interview on CP24, Mayor Rob Ford said councillors have to “look under every rock” for savings to eliminate Toronto’s annual deficit, but added: “I want to protect our police . . . that’s at the bottom of the list.”
Consultants’ efficiency reviews of police, libraries, TTC, facilities, solid waste and fleet services are underway, with contracts for reviews of 10 more services and agencies yet to be awarded. Cost-cutting options include contracting out, automation and sharing of services.
Councillors will get a progress update in September and, closer to the end of the year, will consider the efficiency recommendations alongside the core review suggestions plus recommendations for new and increased user fees.
The City of Toronto has offered 17,000 of its staff buyout packages of up to six months pay. Pennachetti said he’s hopeful the reviews will help minimize “staff reductions.”
“The issue is going through services and looking at every efficiency possible before we get into impacts with staff.
“However, at the end of the day 10 per cent is very significant and there will be staff reductions.”