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Budget chief vows to quit if councillors seek more spending

Toronto's cost-conscious budget chair wants homeowners to shell out a little bit more to help a handful of city progams, but is warning he'll resign his post if councillors try to open the floodgates on additional spending.

Councillor Mike Del Grande proposed just over $1-million in extra spending Monday on a range of programs – a move that would bump residential tax rates for 2013 up 2 per cent from the 1.95 per cent proposed by staff. The added revenue would add about $1.25 to a the average tax bill, he said.

Mr. Del Grande wants to use that money to boost spending for student nutrition programs, priority centres and community partnership grants. Toronto Botanical Gardens would get a one-time grant of $75,000 to help it while it develops a long-term funding plan and local lawn bowling clubs would get $30,000 told help them while they evaluate their viability.

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The changes also include a review of arts funding and the use of revenue from the city's billboard tax.

Even as he introduced the changes, Mr. Del Grande cautioned councillors not to see his move as permission to turn on the spending taps.

"If at the end of the day council wants to blow 5, 10, 20, 50-million dollars that's them," he told reporters. "I tell you guaranteed – guaranteed – they won't have me as budget chair. I have no interest under that scenario."

Mr. Del Grande said this is especially the case since the city held the line on police spending, with the police services board refusing to give Chief Bill Blair the extra $21-million in funding he requested.

"We got a great gift from the police to basically forgo $21-million of their budget and I would not feel very comfortable for councillors to come forward and spend $20-million. I think that would send a very grave and concerning message to the police board." he said.

Also Monday, staff reported the results of the latest current value assessment, which shows the value of residential properties rising faster than commercial or industrial sites. That and a policy to shift the tax burden from business to residential means the average residential rate is expected to increase by 2.51 per cent.

That increase works out to an extra $62.08 on the average homeowner's tax bill for 2013.

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City staff also reported assessment growth will bring an additional $33-million to the city, up from an earlier estimate of $27-million. The city manager recommended that that money be used in place of one-time funding from rainy-day funds, meaning the city will now use about $40-million from reserves to balance its budget, instead of more than $46-million.

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