Mayor Rob Ford is proclaiming that newly released numbers from city staff support his $1 billion savings claim — even as top staff call that claim “misleading.”
After a media briefing Monday, city manager Joe Pennachetti now says the amount of money saved during Ford’s four-year term is $893 million — not $1 billion or even $972 million as staff previously reported.
Pennachetti said the mayor can claim he reduced spending more than other mayors. For example, former mayor David Miller saved $545 million in spending, meaning Ford saved nearly $350 million more than Miller. But Ford’s claim that he has saved taxpayers $1 billion over four years is not correct, Pennachetti said.
“In terms of budget savings being a billion dollars, that is misleading compared to previous administrations,” Pennachetti said.
Ford says the city has found $606 million in “efficiencies” over four years.
One of the things counted as an efficiency is the $21-million budget increase requested by Toronto Police in 2013. That increase was never approved by city council and had no real impact on taxpayers.
A month ago, finance staff said the amount Ford saved over four years was $972 million, but they have since removed from the calculation $30 million in user fees and $44.8 million in contracted garbage collection savings.
In his release, Ford continues to claim the number is closer to $940 million and then claims that when the vehicle registration tax is included the savings are pushed to more than $1 billion.
The mayor’s campaign website, RobFordForMayor.ca still features a button claiming “billion-dollar savings,” which links to the now-outdated city staff document that put the number at $972 million.
Ford did not stop to speak to reporters on Monday, but as he walked back into his office he claimed he had saved “over a billion dollars.”
Staff said the Ford-Miller comparison is valid because similar budgeting methods were used and the result is an apples-to-applies comparison.
Miller’s administration did hike property taxes more than Ford, said Rossini, the city’s chief financial officer.
Under Miller, residential property taxes went up an average of 3.6 per cent annually over the four-year period. Under Ford, the residential increase has averaged 1.7 per cent over the four years.
However, pointed out Councillor Gord Perks, a Ford critic: “You pay more now in taxes than when Rob Ford was elected mayor.