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2014-01-28 at 15:55

'Totally irresponsible'

FILE -- Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs.
tbnewswatch.com
FILE -- Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs.
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By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

The city wants the local chamber of commerce to set the record straight on its recent report that concludes spending is out of control and taxes are set to skyrocket.

The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce report, An Analysis and Forecast of the City of Thunder Bay's Municipal Finances, states the operating costs for Thunder Bay city hall are higher than the average in 20 of 27 categories compared to other Ontario and Northern cities.

It also says property taxes are among the highest in Ontario. LU business professor Camillo Lento said if nothing changes, homeowners could see tax increases of around 7.9 per cent over the next four years.

But on Tuesday the city issued a news release stating that the report is distorted and based on incorrect assumptions.

"All we're asking for are facts not false assumptions," Mayor Keith Hobbs said.

Unless the municipal tax base takes a huge hits, the city will never see tax increases like the report suggests.

"I think it's totally irresponsible for the chamber to do that," Hobbs said.

Most of the tax increases in recent years have gone toward the infrastructure gap, something that needed to happen, Hobbs said.

"I for one am not going to abandon that. Past councils had zero tax increases and the infrastructure fell to pieces and I'm not going back to those days," Hobbs said.

Chamber president Charla Robinson said it would be happy if increases come in lower than the projections. But its 1,000 members are concerned about rising costs. The purpose of the report was to point out that the city lags in efficiencies compared to other cities.

"We believe that city council needs to reduce operating costs, nothing's changed in our assessment of the costs," she said.

"We need city council to get serious about reducing their costs and that was the majority of the report. We hope that they'll focus on that."

New information from the city wasn't available at the time of the report, which chamber consultants will be reviewing Robinson said.

Hobbs said the city was blindsided by the report. But Robinson said administration was told what it would reveal prior to its release.

"We did give city administration a heads up as to what the report revealed prior to the event and we felt that it was important for the information to be available broadly to our members at the same time as it became available to the city," she said.

The report starts an important discussion that needs to continue, Robinson said.


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Comments

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Chaos says:
Call in the spindoctor.
1/28/2014 4:12:52 PM
Eastender says:
The caption above the picture says it all.


Nice work TBNewswatch.
1/29/2014 10:04:04 AM
GregT says:
"Unless the municipal tax base takes a huge hits, the city will never see tax increases like the report suggests."

They are re-evaluating the tax burden of the mill and several other properties. Our tax base it taking a substantial hit.
1/29/2014 10:05:37 AM
Killer says:
The Chamber Of Commerce owe's the city nothing I guess the truth really hurts a Mr. Mayor and council. You can only hide behind the numbers for so long then they really start to show where this city is heading.
1/28/2014 4:17:11 PM
Tbaylifer 1 says:
If we are to have a 2.1 increase for 2014 and will continue on like this for the next 4 years equalling 8, how then, did the chamber get it wrong? I would also believe that a professor of economics would be an expert as opposed to the hired guns at city hall. A dog never bites the hand that feeds it.
1/28/2014 4:19:15 PM
mikevirtanen1961 says:
A professor of economics who is also on the board of the Chamber. You're right in saying a dog never bites the hand that feeds it; this report says exactly what the Chamber paid for it to say.
1/28/2014 5:05:07 PM
TBDR says:
that isn't what it said in the chamber report. you should read it. It's a great work of fiction
1/28/2014 5:51:30 PM
j_northey says:
If you check the chamber's website you'd see they are claiming a 7.9% increase EACH YEAR, not total for 4 years. Now _that_ would be crazy. Then we'd be looking at a 35.6% increase over 4 years which would be a disaster. Instead, if increases are the same as this year we're looking at a 8.7% increase over 4 years (remember, the 2.1% would be on the previous years thus it isn't 8.4%). Given inflation is around 1.2% right now it is an effective 0.9% increase for new costs vs inflation based ones. If you factor in the amount of infrastructure that needs fixing that is a very reasonable increase.

If you want to see what happens when you ignore infrastructure long term check out Mississauga with 'Saint Hazel' (a mayor who is extremely loved)...6.1% this year and adding debt to the city that prided itself on being debt free. Ignore stuff too long and that is what happens. I much prefer 2.1% increases to that.
1/28/2014 10:53:31 PM
TBDR says:
That's what I've been trying to say too. Apparently only 6 people here actually read the report. it's 7.9% ANNUALLY that the chamber is claiming.
1/29/2014 4:57:02 PM
Dockboy says:
I don't think the Chamber will have any problems backing up their claims.
1/28/2014 4:39:37 PM
tbay99 says:
City council is looking to increase taxes this years by 2.1%... IF it is 2.1% year after year, which knowing this councils spending habits it will likely be more, that will be a 8.4% increase over 4 years.

If anything the chamber of commerce low-balled the estimate. Just another example this city council/managers have NO clue what they're doing.
1/28/2014 4:49:00 PM
oldnews says:
I understand my new tax assessment very clearly, and the city management is out to lunch in telling me that I should not be alarmed. You jacked my assessment up $49,000 on a 64 yr. old home in McKellar Ward and I'm not too to notice it? This rounds out to 25% plus the 2.5% for the other annual increase to a total of 27.5% for this years tax payments. Listen to the Business Heads at the Chamber of Commerce, and stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes on unwanted expense.
1/28/2014 4:49:14 PM
conker2012 says:
except the 2.1% increase is revenue increase not a rate increase. Since MPAC only adds about 25% of your reassessed value per year your property assessment did not jump $49,000 in a year ( unless your house jumped $200,000 in assessed value ). The more likely situation is that your assessment value will likely increase about 7% this year as part of the gradual increase. This will also apply for most other homes in the city.

The tax increase is a revenue increase of 2.1% but assessments jumped about 7% I would expect the tax rate to drop this year since assessments climbed higher than the revenue increase percentage.....

Municipal property tax might be a bit to complicated for you.
1/29/2014 8:39:55 AM
Me n My Opinion says:
@ oldnews, your assessment going up 25% doesn't mean your taxes are going up 25%. In fact, your assessment could go up, and your taxes actually go down. Or vice versa - your assessment could go down and your taxes still go up. If EVERYONE'S assessments went down by 50% this year, our taxes would all still go up by 2.1%. Likewise, if EVERYBODY'S assessment doubled this year, our taxes would still go up by 2.1% this year. Not 2.1% plus your assessment percentage - just 2.1%.

When you read or hear about the tax revenue generated from new assessments, they aren't referring to the increases that everyone saw on their MPAC statements this year, they're referring to all the expansions in the city - new houses, hotels, Court House, strip plazas, condo's, etc. When you get your interim tax bill in a couple months you'll see the sky hasn't fallen.
1/29/2014 4:53:31 PM
gotcha says:
"It is regrettable that the Chamber did not provide the draft of the Report for review and comment by the City of Thunder Bay through the City Manager and/or others who are experts in municipal finance and municipal tax,” the release states."

At least give them ( the city or Commisso)a chance to Tweek or Re-engineer the figures in a more favourable light before releasing to us dumb Taxpayers.

After all what does a couple of PHD's from LU know about audited Financials.

If you dumb Taxpayers havn't read the report yet down load it from the chambers web site it'll give you shivers.

1/28/2014 5:06:31 PM
cm punk says:
Facts are this, Thunder Bay will be another Detroit very soon given council spending.
Water bill has increased 50 percent since 2010.
Citizens need to stop the Hobbs pipe dreams spending bus come election time
1/28/2014 5:24:55 PM
SomeGuy says:
We won't be another Detroit. Our population is stable and has been since the 60's. Detroit's median family income is only $27,000 while Thunder Bay's its $78,000.

Detroit's population fled to the suburbs the Detroit metro area has a population of 4.2 million which has stayed stable for a long time. On one hand the City of Detroit which makes only a small area of the Metro Detroit area population has dropped to 700,000 from a high of 1.8 million.

My guess is you have no clue what your talking about and only heard Detroit is bankrupt from the news, which we are not.
1/28/2014 9:50:54 PM
sky high says:
Exactly the first thing I said when the Chambers article was posted and it never got published. Our chamber of commerce must be mixing it up with the cane-shaking population in this city. Perhaps they were even paid to say what they did.
1/28/2014 5:34:15 PM
gotcha says:
Scoundrals! Proff's prostituting themselves! My,My what' next? Elected officials doing the right thing looking after the taxpayer's trust funds in the most efficient manner and within their mandate?
1/28/2014 6:52:26 PM
Eastender says:
Is that the best you've got? Cane shakers? Anyone who has a logical objection to your ill thought out opinions is a cane shaker?
All those people posting on this site who object to the ridiculouse increases in taxes are not cane shakers, they are all legitimately concerned people, who are stating their objections to the irresponsible use of their hard earned tax dollars. Your characterization of them as cane shakers makes you look like the fool that you are. They are folks who earn minimum wages, older people on pensions, people who are middleincome earners, with kids, and mortgages and car payments, grocery bills utility bills, people who at the end of the month look at their income and wonder if there will be enough money left to buy their kids a pair of shoes, hoping they dont go deeper in debt. No they are not cane shakers, they dont care a rats ass if you have an event centre. Your silly rationale and comments confirm the fact that you are a self centred fool.

1/29/2014 10:02:23 AM
sky high says:
I understand your frustration; however, each time you or one of your dozen gang members hear that council is going to spend money on ANYTHING except filling potholes and more housing, you start foaming at the mouth and demand that the mayor and aldermen step down. So who is the fool? Quit with the whining and we'll have a rational discussion
1/29/2014 11:51:33 AM
Eastender says:
You are irrelevant to any rational discussion since you are the one foaming at the mouth about anything that would jeapardize your holy hockey shrine.
1/29/2014 11:39:47 PM
Watchmaker says:
Obviously, the powers that be have decided that this council needs to go and got their knives out through the Chamber of Commerce - just in time to hash this out until the election this fall...

Et tu Camillo?
1/28/2014 5:46:23 PM
Toot Sweet says:
You ever notice that council and administration are always right and the citizens they work for are always wrong?
1/28/2014 5:46:49 PM
sky high says:
The small majority of cane shakers that whine and complain make a lot of noise....but that doesn't mean city council is wrong. We voted them in, and most of them including Hobbs will be voted right back in when the sensible citizens of this city fill the ballot box next election. Just remember, complainers only get ONE vote in the election. After that they can just keep complaining.
1/28/2014 6:56:28 PM
det john kimble says:
"small majority"
somehow that statement does not make sense but then again you admit your...
"sky high",
a true city admin council stooge....
1/28/2014 7:54:14 PM
sky high says:
That's right, just like I said. The 'small majority' of cane shakers. There's a minority of cane shakers that don't complain. They just shake their canes. It's a group within a group. I lost you, didn't I.
1/28/2014 8:51:25 PM
Sandwiches1123 says:
Whoa, this group within a group thing is bonkers. It's like cane-shaking inception. If my scientific analysis is right, I could assume that if there was another group within a group within a group then that person would be caught falling asleep to Jeopardy every night and HAGI BINGO on the weekend. FYI, I think I'm in this final group.
1/29/2014 2:52:42 AM
det john kimble says:
lost me? LOL how long did it take you to think that logic out, now go back and get your grade 6...
Does every complaint or query mean its a cane shake? from some old geezer?
Well then so be it. Now take that soother out of your mouth and think.
Complaints are a part of the check and balance, fools never complain ..they just take their drink of coolaid and smile.
1/29/2014 9:55:30 AM
trevor99 says:
lets see now 7.9% over the next four years. Not so says the Mayor. Only 2.1 this year but x four years is higher than 8.4 when compounding is considered.

Wish the chamber would have given us advance notice said the Mayor.
We did said the Chamber.

So far Chamber 2 - Hobbs no score

Hobbs says not going back to the days of Zero--
Can't recall anyone suggesting that in the article or from Chamber

Chamber concerned about rising costs.
not addressed in this article by the Mayor

So lets see if I got the score correct.

Chamber 2, Hobbs Zero, 2 we can kindly call a draw for our Mayor and finally, city taxpayers win.

We are getting 2.1, plus the water, plus some user fees plus, plus plus because no one at that building can say no

Besides 2.1 is going to seem great before we spend 106 million

1/28/2014 5:54:07 PM
fluffy says:
Nice. I love it!! The truth hurts doesn't it you City Council Clowns.
1/28/2014 6:36:05 PM
crypto says:
Actions speak louder than words Mr. Hobbs. If you say they are in the wrong then prove to us how.

Given the results of last night's council meeting I fail to see how their conclusions differ from reality.
1/28/2014 6:47:07 PM
The Ultimate Warrior says:
AHHHHH

REPORT, SHREVEPORT! GOT THE PIRATES MAKING UP FACTS AND SHOVING THEM DOWN OUR THROATS!

DON'T TRUST PHDS OR CITY MANAGEMENT. THE FACTS ARE ON THE REPORT CARD.

AHHHHH
1/28/2014 7:58:01 PM
bttnk says:
Translation - Mr Hobbs isn't happy that this report came out in an election year and right before council proposed a 2.1% tax increase.

I challenge Mr Hobbs to put his annual salary on that Chamber of Commerce report not being mostly dead on.
1/28/2014 8:30:39 PM
virtualrealityczech says:
It's good to see the Chamber not be intimidated by council and come out with realistic figures. The hike in property tax is just the tip of the iceberg when you add in the way water and hydro have increased over recent years I am incredulous that City administration even considers things like $40,000 for a feasability study for FWFN or the tens of millions of dollars for a new event centre, which will operate at a deficit.

Whatever happened to paying for necessities before you start spending on luxuries.
1/28/2014 8:36:58 PM
young&concerned says:
Thank you! Tbnewswatch!
You made my day...A photo of Hobbs with a a great, grab your attention headline "Totally irresponsible"

Well done!
1/28/2014 8:50:59 PM
young&concerned says:
I would believe the Chamber of Commerce and their numbers before I would trust/believe ANYTHING provided by the Hobbs and the other clowns downtown. Hobbs don't start lying...you know what happened to Pinocchio we he lied...oh wait minute!
1/28/2014 8:59:01 PM
mikevirtanen1961 says:
They're not the Chamber's numbers, they're BMA's numbers cut-and-pasted into a new document with a paragraph of dubious analysis after each one. BMA has actually sent a letter outlining how badly they are misinterpreting it. This report is C level work, at best. I pity anyone taking classes from the authors.
1/28/2014 10:30:55 PM
Tbfriend says:
Where is rob ford when u need him. He would cut the fat, and put us on the map for his wild binges at the same time. Win win. Come on rob ford, Thunder Bay needs you!
1/28/2014 9:07:40 PM
conker2012 says:
LOL..... Cut the fat....... that buffoon will cost the city of Toronto Billions of dollars to pay for a subway in Scarborough which will actually have less stops and service less people than the provincially funded light rail proposal. Worse service for more money... the exact opposite of what our city needs.
1/29/2014 8:47:39 AM
Downtownie says:
Reading these comments are filled with nonsense and inaccuracies.
1/28/2014 9:45:40 PM
Ed itw says:
Its simple:
When a business is millions in the hole they fix it or go bankrupt.They are governed by (GAAP)Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

For the city they just raise taxes and call it a balanced budget. This is refereed to as (BS)
or excrement of cattle.
1/28/2014 10:07:12 PM
Watchful says:
Might I suggest that sky high run for office, since you believe anyone who questions what you want you could evict them from this city. No I am not a cane shaker, just a responsible tax payer who works hard for a living. All I ask is that council give me all the facts before spending my money. And taxes are going up high as the chamber says, taxes to me include high water bills etc. if you have the solution Sky high, then grow some balls and run for office and stop your insulting of people who don't kiss your ass
1/28/2014 10:36:49 PM
Dunroamin says:
What's important here is that it isn't 'they said,we said its about getting all of us who live here ,council,chamber,taxpayers a clear proper picture of Thunder Bay 's situation financially to prepare us to keep us a attractive cost effective city to live and do business in and collectively making the corrections required ..
Stop the rhetoric and let's work this out together
1/28/2014 10:44:46 PM
longtimer says:
Caption Title Is Accurate
house prices have increased 10-30% over the past 4.5 years and the city receives the extra property tax on that increase.
What are those numbers?
Quit spinning and fudging the numbers to suit a reason to spend spend spend.
Experienced councillors need to ask the question, how much extra tax revenue has come into the city coffers due to the increased value of properties in our community.
Why are these questions not being asked?
1/28/2014 11:43:04 PM
Chaos says:
1.6 million is about 1% of the budget. So if the debenture 8.2 million for road work was actually paid out of budget like it should be the tax hike would be over 7%. Just like the phd said.

Ask admin what the rate of increase from 2012 to 2013 would be if they actually don't debenture for road work? Add resolute 7 million tax refund and we are in double digit increase.
1/29/2014 6:46:50 AM
Me n My Opinion says:
I'm curious to know whether all you people who are cheering the "truth" the Chamber has brought out will be willing to say you were wrong in four years after never having an increase near 7.9%? It's a simple yes or no question. I don't need narrative - just a yes or no would suffice.
1/29/2014 7:55:52 AM
Renegade120860 says:
And what is Hobbs going to do, if the Chamber doesn't "bow down" and tow His/Council's/City Manager's line?

Could be a very tense and interesting edition of the "State of the City Address", to the Chamber of Commerce, in February!
1/29/2014 8:42:00 AM
Kam River says:
Property taxes are up, assessments are up, Water Taxes way up,
Crime is so bad people are afraid to walk the streets as soon as it starts getting dark.
Mayor and council have abandoned our neighbours
Forcing us to take our children to either of Marina Park or the new youth centre to show that their legacy projects are correct.

1/29/2014 8:53:34 AM
CrankyApe says:
The problem as I see it is this. For every $100,000 of assessment, Thunder Bay residents pay about $2250 in tax, which is higher than any city of greater than 100,000 people in Ontario. See attached graph or visit page 5 of this presentation.

http://www.greatersudbury.ca/sudburyen/assets/File/2012%20Comparison%20to%20muncipalities%20100000%20or%20Greater.pdf

Steps need to be taken to cut costs in this city, we cannot keep spending money and increasing taxes. At the rate housing costs are increasing (people are paying up to $300,000 for a Northwood bungalow). Once the houses are reassessed by MPAC then they will be paying over $6000 a year.
1/29/2014 9:20:58 AM
SomeGuy says:
You also need to look at the prices of homes also not just per $100,000. If a home costs $300,000 here it will cost a lot more in other cities bringing that rate per 100,000 down.
1/29/2014 11:37:44 AM
RBosch says:
So, have any of those who have posted on this string, who try to make the City's numbers equal what the Chamber's numbers seem to indicate, even read either the Press Release or the Report of the Chamber? I do find the report to be a bit of fear mongering and it has only served to stir up the "sky is falling" group, once again.

The Chamber DOES owe the city an explanation, if not apology, for stating, quite clearly, that they project the city budget to average over 8% for the next 4 years, while the city has come out with a 2.1% budget, before adjustments. So, perhaps the City Administration is right?

A good portion of the budget includes increased money for improvements to infrastructure, as the city is responding to citizen complaints re: same infrastructure. I am sure some of those complaining about the tax increase are the same as those who complained about the failing infrastructure. Just how do they think these improvements can be managed without increased money?
1/29/2014 9:46:54 AM
S Duncan says:
More failures from Hobbs and Commisso.

Its time for them to go.
1/29/2014 9:47:36 AM
big momma says:
Big momma plans on cleaning house on election day not one of these money hungry embarrassments will get my vote. The taxpayers have reached their tipping point. It's time to take out the garbage on election day.
1/29/2014 11:25:10 AM
terwilliger says:
Blind sided!! You mean you didnt know that the city is already has the highest tax rate and spends way too much. Really.
1/29/2014 11:34:55 AM
trips says:
to rod bosch...are you saying this because you fear your pet project the event centre and hockey rink is in jeopardy of funding from the city or do you have more knowledge than these phd at the university?
1/29/2014 12:45:18 PM
mcmac says:
I think everyone that has commented on this tread so far should through their hat in for council, because, apparently they all know how to do the job better....
1/29/2014 2:26:59 PM
longtimer says:
Mcmac, When the market value of our homes increases in big margins the past 4.5 years, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize city revenue goes up with the increased amount they can tax our homes. The real issue is, no one is asking city managers where those extra tax dollars have gone to? Regardless of mill rate changes, the average home taxes have increased enough that it hurts retired people on fixed incomes like myself.
I voted for Mayor Hobbs and probably will again but he has to start asking the questions of his managers for us seniors who no longer seem to have a voice.
THERE SHOULD BE NO TAX INCREASE THIS YEAR.
1/29/2014 3:24:35 PM
Been here before says:
If anyone has bothered to take notice of the fact that all but 3 members of city council and the mayor spent their working career being payed by public tax dollars and in retirement still being payed with public gold plated pensions please tell me what incentive this group of people would have to care what percentage the tax rate goes up by. In the next election the people of this city better start take a hard look at what member of council voted for what and not just use name recognition to decide on a candidate!
1/29/2014 3:29:35 PM
northfirst says:
there is a principle in academics - and professions - that you don't represent yourself as an expert in a field that you have no expertise in. the authors of this report, as some here have noted, wrote to satisfy their client and did so without the expertise to tackle the subject.
i see the City giving the Chamber a chance to change their report before they get embarrassed by a demonstration of how wrong they are.
those who think municipal finances are simple....as some on the chamber seem to.... need to do their homework. a snapshot of numbers without understanding where they come from is never a point of view that leads to a meaningful anlysis.
You want taxes to be lower, then starting listing the services you'd like to see reduced or eliminated.
1/29/2014 4:46:48 PM
S Duncan says:
I listed a bunch of them but they weren't fit to print.

Its wrong to criticize where our tax dollars go nowadays.
1/29/2014 5:18:49 PM
myopic not foolish says:
How about getting rid of some the useless managers in Administration? Overpaid and under worked.
1/30/2014 2:11:08 PM
maggie says:
so many angry people just smile
1/30/2014 9:02:11 AM
The Beaver..... says:
@Mr. Bosch Just how do they think these improvements can be managed without increased money?
It is done in private business all the time its called being rational and efficient and run a responsible Organisation on behalf of the Shareholders. The City does not know what that means. That is the big problem here. The Chamber owes the City nothing. It is now up to the City to tell us the Taxpayer what is really going on.
1/31/2014 8:53:59 AM
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