Should we really be all that shocked that Mayor David Miller surprised us with $100m in found money?
I'm writing this blog post while on a business trip to Shanghai, so I apologize if I don't have some real numbers at hand, but by memory, Toronto has revenues north of $3 billion. That means Miller's "surprise" amounts to around 3% of revenues. In that context, it doesn't sound so outrageous. But it also represents a 40% increase ($250m to $350m) above their earlier projections, and I'm sure this is what gets people's spider-senses tingling. I mean, they didn't have this information one month ago when they announced the $93/head property tax increase?
Hard to believe, isn't it?
As usual, the devil is in the details. To be frank, it is not at all uncommon to under-promise and over-deliver when it comes to municipal revenue projections. I just looked at the 2008 numbers quickly and note that the City came in around $235 million above budget. One can even argue this is good policy in politics.
It's the timing here - and the vague explanation - that irks me. Higher than expected returns on investments that we're led to believe surprisingly materialized in the last month are the source of the funds. Hopefully Mayor Miller will give us some further detail here because I don't buy it.
My guess, and by the sounds of it a lot of people agree, is that Miller has been holding this card for a while. Perhaps he was going to use it to fend off his foes in his own run for another mayoral campaign at one time. Who knows? Now, at the very least, he has done his left-leaning friend Joe Pantalone a big favour. The belt-tightening rhetoric from Smitherman and his compatriots in the middle-right sounds a bit odd when the City can find $100 million at the drop of a hat.
Or am I just being cynical?