In the midst of increased consternation from Toronto police over the 2024 city staff budget proposal, Mayor Olivia Chow says the force is still in line for a "substantial" investment — even if it isn't the amount the chief of police wanted.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Chow took questions from reporters about what police Chief Myron Demkiw has described as a cut to the force's budget.
"The Toronto police are receiving millions [of dollars] more in the budget," Chow said. "There's no cuts."
Toronto police remains one of the largest line items in city staff's proposed net budget, coming in at just over $1.17 billion. The police board, however, approved a just under $1.19 billion net increase back in December — though the mayor and council have final say on that number, not the police board.
In essence, police are asking for $20 million more in this year's budget compared to last year, while staff say police should get $7.4 million more, for a $12.6 million difference.
Budget consultations are ongoing, with the number expected to be finalized on Feb. 14.
Police focus on budget
Toronto police has made the budget process a focal point in recent weeks, both in media releases and in social media posts, but largely with comments from the public turned off.
Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw said a decrease to the force's budget ask presents an 'unacceptable risk' to officers' ability to provide 'adequate and effective' policing. (Toronto Police Service handout)
"Any reduction to our modest and below-the-rate inflation ask of 1.7 per cent will present an unacceptable risk to our ability to provide the adequate and effective police services that are required by legislation," Demkiw said in a news release last week.
"This is happening despite the fact that we have been public about our response times and major crime, including violent carjackings, home invasions and auto theft that have reached unprecedented levels in our city, contributing to a feeling of insecurity amongst many of our constituents," he added.
Property tax hike on horizon
However, public consultations cited in a budget document from the city paint a different picture — with 10 per cent of respondents saying they were in favour of increased support to police services, compared to 43 per cent who were in favour of decreasing support.
During the news conference, Chow repeatedly said police are still in line for a "substantial" increase, though she also said she understands that the force is dealing with increased pressures.
"The pressure to deal with hate crimes, the pressure to deal with all the demonstration that's happening, I understand the need," she said.
Toronto staff are recommending a 10.5 per cent hike to the city's residential property tax — the largest single-year increase since amalgamation in 1998 — as they look to fill a nearly $1.8 total billion budget shortfall in 2024.