The message delivered by Toronto’s embattled mayor Thursday night was clear - things are better, but there remains work to be done.

Speaking at an economic event in the city, Mayor Rob Ford delivered a campaign-style speech highlighting the money-saving initiatives the city has undertaken in his first two years as mayor.

“We have accomplished a lot, ladies and gentlemen. For the first time ever, we spent less this year than we did last year,” Ford told the crowd, crediting initiatives such as the outsourcing of a portion of the city’s garbage collection for the savings.

Going forward, Ford said that the city must work to find new sources of incomes and efficiencies, and not generating revenues by simply raising taxes.

“We must begin to eliminate the dreaded land transfer tax, and work to attract new businesses to this great city,” he added.

In ending his speech, Ford showed appreciation to Toronto residents for their backing, and asked that it continue going forward.

“I want to thank you for your support in the last two years, I ask you for your support for the next six years,” he said. “I need your help to achieve our goal in growing jobs in this city.”

The event was attended by a number of city councillors, including Michael Thompson and Paula Fletcher, as well as more than 400 guests from the Toronto business community.

Ford ousted from office

On Monday, Ford was found to be in violation of provincial conflict-of-interest laws by Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland.

The mayor was accused of not declaring a conflict of interest when he participated in a city council vote on whether he should repay $3,150 in donations he solicited for his private football foundation using official city letterhead.

In his decision, Hackland said Ford showed “a stubborn sense of entitlement” and acted with “willful blindness” when he didn’t declare a conflict of interest.

The lawsuit was launched by Toronto resident Paul Magder, who was represented by lawyer Clayton Ruby.

Hackland's ruling was that the mayor be removed from office within 14 days of the court's decision. Ford was also ordered to pay back the $3,150 in donations he had amassed.

Ford is appealing the decision.

Budget unveiled at city hall

The mayor’s speech comes just hours after city staff recommended that a property tax hike of 1.95 per cent be included in the 2013 budget unveiled at city hall.

The hike, which was unveiled Thursday morning, would equate to an additional $48 in taxes for the average property owner.

The increase is slightly more than the 1.75 per cent hike Ford had previously advocated for 2013, but less than the 2.5 per cent increase contained in the 2012 budget.

Other highlights of the capital and operating budgets include a commitment to spend $25 million in maintenance on the Gardiner Expressway in 2013 and $50 million per year between 2014 and 2022.

The $9.4 billion operating budget also calls for the elimination of the Global AIDS Fund for an annual savings of $104,000, and an increase in user fees for city programs that’s expected to bring in an additional $12 million.

"Through the recommended 2013 operating budget, the city continues to build a sustainable, affordable and well-managed city," a press release states. "Included in the proposed budget are $109 million in efficiency and other cost savings and $60 million of savings in employee compensation and benefits."

The budget is based on the assumption of a zero per cent increase in all departmental budgets, including the budget of the Toronto Police Service.

Police Chief Bill Blair has previously said that such a freeze would mean “significant staffing reductions,” setting up a fight between Blair and budget committee chair Mike Del Grande.

The budget eliminates the use of surplus funds, though it does use $47 million in reserve funds.

In delivering the budget, city manager Joe Pennachetti said it is important that the surplus is put towards the deficit.

"Our debt management strategies are working," he said.

The final review of the 2013 capital and operating budgets is scheduled for Jan. 15-17.

Changes can be made to both documents up until that date.

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