London City Council ponders budget '98
By Alex Chiang
London city councillors are still not prepared to say whether or not the proposed 1998 budget will result in spending cuts or a property tax increase. One particular worry is that a spending cut may result in higher fares for the use of public transit in the city.
Controller and budget chief Anne Marie DeCicco said a spending cut and a tax increase will depend on unknown factors since the city has not yet been given exact figures from the province. Areas such as social housing have been unloaded onto the city at a price tag anywhere between $18 and $25 million.
"The transit commission itself lost millions of dollars and as a city we have to either absorb it or cut funding," DeCicco said.
Nick Iozzo, municipal affairs commissioner of Western's University Students' Council, said students should be concerned about the details of the city's budget since, as residents, they will be affected by it in one way or another.
"With provincial downloading the city has had to pick up a bigger tab and a decrease in transfer funds could see an increase in transit fares," he said.
Ward One Councillor Sandy Levin said since the province no longer subsidizes public transportation, the LTC's budget will now come exclusively from the city. He is confident, however, there will not be an increase in transit fares for students due to the efforts of the USC to include a mandatory bus pass as a part of the student fee next year.
Levin admitted, though, that because of provincial downloading the total revenue needed for the City of London will be much greater.
This could cause problems if the city also decides to maintain the current level of public transit funding since social programs such as welfare or social housing may have to be cut with an alternative being raised property taxes a decision which would drive up student rent.
Larry Ducharme, secretary treasurer of the LTC, said he appreciates the dilemna the municipal government faces but believes the commission has done its part to meet city council's demands.
"We were asked to prepare a budget at about $9.9 million, the same level as in 1997," he said. "We submitted the budget and we feel that even with increased costs, we can absorb them with increased ridership and some fine-tuning."
Although Ducharme said he expects council not to cut public transit funding, it is by no means engraved in stone. The budget is to be finalized and voted on by city council on Jan. 27.