In the previous City Council term, the Executive Committee was presented with a framework to implement a long-term financial plan for the City of Toronto. The former City Manager presented "The City of Toronto's Roadmap to Financial Sustainability" in March 2018. This document outlined various alternatives for Council to consider as they not only set strategic directions for the City but also their ability to deliver on these commitments. One of the key findings in the report highlighted the growing funding gap between the amount of investment required for Council approved initiatives and the amount of money available to fund them.
Based on status quo revenues and expenses, the magnitude of the funding gap for Council approved programs, initiatives, projects was clearly communicated. Using the 2018 Budget as a reference, an estimated $30 billion in unfunded capital costs over 10 years as well as an estimated $900 million operating budget funding gap was forecasted over 5 years. These findings are consistent with the 2019 budget. For example, as proposed, key city assets such as the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) have extensive capital backlogs and a large amount of unfunded capital investments. In a recent Budget Committee meeting, TCHC noted that the backlog may lead to unit closures as early as 2020, and the TTC's 15-year capital plan notes that approximately $24 billion of the $33.5 billion plan to maintain the system in its current format (i.e. no expansions) is unfunded.
With many youth relying on the City's social housing stock, and even more relying on transit to get to and from school, work and home, it is necessary for the City to be proactive in maintaining these vital assets and others, as well as programs that youth rely on. While the report was presented to the Executive Committee towards the end of the previous term of Council, the item was not debated among the full set of Councillors. It is expected to be discussed early in the upcoming term.
The Toronto Youth Cabinet (TYC) supports the implementation of various revenue tools as necessary to sustainably fund City operations and capital investments.
Ultimately, the funding gaps highlighted in the Long-Term Financial Plan as presented to the Executive Committee in 2018 should be reduced.
Specific to the Long-Term Financial Plan, the TYC endorses the Broader City Building approach to City operations. Regarding the operating budget, taking this approach would reduce funding gaps for key programs related to youth development and well-being, as well as proactively address broader city issues such as child and youth poverty.
The effects of capital backlogs and funding gaps are not experienced on a daily basis, however, these costs continue to increase. Future generations are slated to be overburdened to catch up with the increase in capital investment requirements. Additionally, there is always the risk that a failure caused by disrepair could negatively impact key city assets and the people that rely on them.
TYC calls on City Council to address recommendations outlined in the Long-Term Financial Plan.
Recommendations that call for the implementation of additional revenue tools requiring City approval under the City of Toronto Act, including but not limited to the vehicle registration tax, commercial parking levy, etc. should be implemented. Taking this approach will ensure that programs youth rely on will not only be maintained, but also expanded to be accessible to a larger amount of youth in Toronto. It will also ensure Toronto’s city-building efforts will be adequately supported.