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City council votes in favour of 2014 budget

City council has voted in favour of a 2014 operating budget that Mayor Ford dubbed “the worst ever.”

The final vote was 35-9 and as expected Ford voted against the $9.6 billion budget, which includes a 2.23 per cent property tax increase.

“All they did was want to spend, spend, spend, phantom money that does not exist,” Ford fumed. “Raid the reserve funds. You can’t do that, it’s ridiculous.”

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly was much happier with the outcome.

“This budget is an example of city council working together to meet the needs of Toronto residents and businesses and ensures we continue to build a great city,” said Kelly.

Earlier Thursday Ford introduced a series of motions he claimed would save $60 million and keep the residential property tax rate at 1.75 per cent. But he admitted some of the savings wouldn’t come into effect for this year’s budget.

In the end Ford’s numerous motions resulted in savings of about $750,000.

“I’m the only one, I’m the only person, member of council down here, that is working to save taxpayer money,” Ford said as council headed home for the night. “You tell me one other councillor that put a motion forward to save money.”

The mayor proposed the city not plant 97,000 trees to save $7 million. Council rejected that by a vote of 38-7. His motion to nix a $500,000 splash pad at Ontario Place also failed to sway council.

Ford also suggested the city charge $14 for users of its welcome policy program. That was rejected 39-6.

Ford did get a win when council agreed to look into getting corporate sponsors to assume the $19-million cost to host some Pan Am Games programs.

Ford’s motions to add library fines to property tax bills and eliminate the use of security guards at libraries both failed to pass.

Earlier, he said he paid $115 of fines for his children Stephanie and Dougie who lost their library books but “others don’t pay it and that has to come to an end.”

“Then I see security guards,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to have two six-year-olds battling out over dinosaur books.”

Former library worker Carol Jerome, 77, told CityNews security guards were essential when she worked at the Toronto Public Library in Cabbagetown for over 5 years. Jerome said the library was often a stomping ground for drug and alcohol use, not to mention prostitution, and without security guards the situation would have escalated.

“We needed a security guard to look after people,” she said. “This is just unheard of that he wants to do this.”

When Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong asked Ford how much of the savings in his motions is for this year’s budget, the mayor didn’t have a solid figure.

Ford said if staff could report back on the proposals by July, the city could save “Let’s say $40- $50 million — I’ll say $10 million.”

Reporters Cynthia Mulligan and Irene Preklet are covering city hall today. See their real-time updates below.

Earlier at the meeting, the $422.8-million operating budget for fire services was questioned.

Ed Kennedy, president of the Toronto Professional Firefighters’ Association, said slashing four fire trucks and 84 firefighters are a big mistake.

“I think everybody’s aware, in our business, that seconds count,” he told 680News reporter Irene Preklet.

“There will be more property loss, injuries and possibly death” if the cuts are approved, he said.

But staff told councillors on Thursday that any changes will be made through attrition, that there would be no changes in so-called first-in time responses and that the department would hire either 25 or 31 new fire prevention officers this year.

On Wednesday, council approved a 2.23-per-cent property-tax hike for 2014. The hike will cost the average homeowner an extra $56 a year and includes a 0.5-per-cent levy for the Scarborough subway extension.

680News political affairs specialist John Stall spoke with the deputy mayor, ahead of day two of the budget session at city council. Listen to the interview below: