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City manager Joe Pennachetti answers questions during a City of Toronto budget committee meeting, Nov. 25 2013. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
City manager Joe Pennachetti answers questions during a City of Toronto budget committee meeting, Nov. 25 2013. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

City of Toronto staff back Ford’s $1-billion savings claim, but with caveats Add to ...

City staff are standing by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s claim of saving nearly $1-billion, but said that every administration, including David Miller’s, has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in order to balance the budget.

City Manager Joe Pennachetti and the city’s chief financial officer Rob Rossini released a briefing note Tuesday after a months-long debate between Mr. Ford and his mayoral rivals over his $1-billion claim – which the mayor has made a major message in his re-election campaign. The note showed that Mayor Ford has found about $890-million in efficiencies and reductions in his first term – about $350-million more than Mr. Miller’s $545-million.

“I think every administration from amalgamation has saved hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s fact,” Mr. Pennachetti told reporters, explaining that these savings are necessary in order to balance the budget.

“He has saved, as I’ve just highlighted, $900-million,” Mr. Pennachetti said. “But it’s not $900-million more than the previous administration. It’s about $350-million more than the previous administration.”

The note shows that, though Mr. Miller was left with a larger shortfall ($2.7-billion compared with Mayor Ford’s $2.3-billion), the former actually reduced it by more – in part, through a higher proportion of tax increases and negotiations with the province.

Mayor Ford, by comparison, concentrated on efficiencies and savings from collective agreements – resulting in an average tax hike of $41 each year, compared with $77 under Mr. Miller.

The note also said that Mr. Ford enjoyed some of the fruits of the labour from the previous administration’s negotiations: including $82-million more in revenue from provincial uploading. He also received $180-million more in land-transfer tax revenue than in Mr. Miller’s term.

“I’ve saved over $1-billion. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times,” Mayor Ford said at City Hall Monday. The difference between the $890-million and the mayor’s claimed $1-billion, he said, is $200-million from cancelling the vehicle-registration tax – even though that amount is saved out of residents’ pockets, and not the city’s.

But at least one councillor used the note against the mayor, calling it another example of Mr. Ford’s “exaggerations,” and adding that he can’t take credit for two of the budgets because he didn’t vote for them.

“Here’s the shorthand: taxes went up under Rob Ford. Your taxes went up under David Miller,” said Councillor Gord Perks. “Both administrations charged you more than what you started out paying. So nobody has saved the taxpayer in either event.”

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