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Province urged to co-pilot TTC

City budget chief wants long-term funding deal

By Antonella Artuso
Queen’s Park Bureau Chief

The City of Toronto will face a 2011 TTC operating budget shortfall of about $200 million — the equivalent of a 4% property tax and a substantial fare hike to boot, city budget chief Shelley Carroll says.

The Dalton McGuinty government needs to come to the table with secure, long-term operating funding to ensure that the system doesn’t put an unfair burden on Toronto ratepayers and public transit users, she says.

“It’s the cost of operating the Toronto public library and EMS services,” Carroll said of the projected shortfall. “We could add another 4% and make an 8% property tax increase (in the city operating budget) and we would still only be covering almost half of that and still have another $100 million to find.

“The property taxpayer needs some help to run this system.”

The TTC was able to avoid a projected budget shortfall this year with some one-time measures, including $31 million in strike savings and $55 million in wage savings, she said.

Although efficiency efforts are underway and will continue to reap savings in 2011 of about $170 million, the province will still need to step in and provide funding, she said.

“It’s not that we’re looking for the premier to come down here with a cheque right now but we definitely need the discussion — and that discussion really needs to have a result for 2011,” Carroll said.

The province and city used to share TTC operating funding but the full cost was downloaded on to municipal taxpayers in the mid-1990s.

The McGuinty government has provided funding in six of the past seven years but on a one-time basis.

The city is urging McGuinty to build TTC operating costs into his annual budget, and it’s something the premier has said he’s prepared to discuss.