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2014-02-05 at 01:08

Budget begins

By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com
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Proposed changes went down in defeat while others were referred as city council debated this year's budget for the first time Tuesday night.

On the tax supported side Coun. Ken Boshcoff wanted to reduce the Clean, Green and Beautiful committee's budget after he and other councillors spent recent meetings debating the cost of some of the projects that come from it. Since 2007 council has put $300,000 into the committee, which picks projects along the city's image routes. That could include anything from public art to landscaping. Anything not spent is put in a reserve fund, which currently has around $480,000 although some of that money is already committed. Boshcoff proposed cutting the annual rate by $40,000.

"Clearly the existing fund can sustain it without even noticing," Boshcoff said.

But city manager of corporate communications and strategic initiatives Karen Lewis said the committee has already identified projects in the future that the money would be used for., which will be coming to council. The proposal was voted down.

Coun. Rebecca Johnson proposed turning down a $50,000 expansion to the city's Aboriginal Liason office to help fund the Urban Aboriginal Strategy. Boshcoff wondered if the two strategies weren't overlapping. The option to cut the funding was proposed in the nearly $1 million option to reduce the overall budget by city manager Tim Commisso.

"We seem to be expanding this to be beyond the municipal mandate," he said.

City clerk John Hannam, who's office oversees the liason office, said the money goes to help capacity building. It's critical to help initiatives through the strategy that help things like employment training. But councillors were more concerned about what the money would actually be used for. Reports when funding the strategy in the past haven't come forward.

"I don't think that's been done well for us," Johnson said.

Mayor Keith Hobbs agreed.

"I just don't think I got enough (information) tonight," he said.

A memo will be brought to council in a future budget meeting so they can deicide.

Council also needed more information before deciding to reduce some funding to cultural grants, also an option provided to council. Hobbs proposed dropping an eight per cent increase to three, with the exception of Shelter House. Other departments have tightened belts and maybe it was time for art initiatives to do the same.

"I think that's a fair assessment and a fair decision," he said.

But with places like the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium and the Boys and Girls Club involved in that funding, council agreed to delay that decision as well until more information came forward over the next few budget sessions.

"I don’t know who doesn’t get money or what amount of money,” Coun. Andrew Foulds said. "I'm not prepared :this is making nebulous cuts without even knowing the impacts of it."

On rate supported issues, Coun. Larry Hebert proposed dropping a six per cent water ate increase to three. Since 2010 the rates have gone up nearly 50 per cent as the city complies with revenue-neutral provincial legislation that states a city's water supply must be self-sustaining. Hebert and other councillors said the rate hikes have been a huge issue, drawing a lot of complaints from the public. The increases are putting a burden on the city's current base.

"We’re not being as intergenerational as we should be,” Hebert said.

Environment manager Kerri Marshall said that reducing the rate would mean the city would have to go into debt, raise taxes or put off capital projects in the water and wastewater system in order to make sure it complied with the province, which started the legislation after the Walkerton tragedy.

"At some point you need to make up that referred work,” she said.

Coun. Trevor Giertuga agreed.

"We have to fund it somewhere,” he said.

Council voted to keep the rate as it is.

The nearly 6.5 hour meeting also ventured into outside boards, hearing from the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board. CEO Bill Bradica said the city's share, which has dropped by nearly $11 million since 2008 as the province continues to upload services, would see a 2.2 per cent decrease in its levy this year.
Budget meetings continue Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

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Comments

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Tbaylifer 1 says:
Tough decisions are needed and this council is not the one to make them. A proposal went forward to reduce to number on council and they threw it out. Yet they fund items and as stated by Foulds , to cut them, " we don't know the impacts of them". Is he saying that they are funding items they have no idea where the money is going? Johnson's most notable statement in the past has been," should the city be in the business of...". Well, she should be saying that now. Should the city be in the arts and entertainment business? The correct answer would be, no. Needs before wants.
2/5/2014 6:33:46 AM
yqtyqt says:
Agreed. "Needs before wants". This city needs many things that are necessary. It wants lots of things that are flashy, vote grabbing and not necessary. To those who want, put a realistic business case forward that would put you in front of the "need's to have", and I'll be convinced.

This is all about prioritizing available tax dollars. Not about the spin doctors dreams.

While the dreamers are dreaming, the realists are spelling out what should be.

Here's a plan. Thunder bay has a disproportionate number of employees doing who knows what in comparison to other Ontario cities of a similar size. Perhaps we should be looking at culling the numbers by attrition. Can we really afford a well fed and abundant number of civil servants, with benefits and pensions.
2/5/2014 10:12:13 AM
loring says:
so the city should cut its employees lay them off fire them maybe now you just lost more of your tax base. are you going to pick up that tab for the rest of us ?what is wrong with a good paying job with a good pension its what canada is all about. not everone can be an entrepreneur, or inherit wealth.
2/5/2014 2:21:29 PM
yqtyqt says:
Well why stop with the insane number of employees we have now. Using your argument, maybe we should hire another thousand or so, to do who knows what and our tax base would expand further.

The fact (and that's exactly what it is) is that we have far too many employees for a municipality our size. Comparatively speaking when you look at similar size single tier municipalities, we have a disproportionate number of employees.

Its time for not only a hiring freeze, its time for a graduated wage freeze and possibly a wage reduction at the higher levels. These people won't starve. I promise you.
2/5/2014 3:46:26 PM
S Duncan says:
everybody cant work for the government.

government employees do not contribute to the tax base at all for the simple reason that they get their money from the tax base.
2/5/2014 5:10:07 PM
fastball says:
Are you just trolling for reaction, or are you really that stupid?
2/5/2014 5:46:51 PM
Eastender says:
And what exactly is stupid about Duncans comment. Please explain?
2/6/2014 12:52:32 AM
Chaos says:
The chamber president was scheduled to make presentation but was no show. Why? Where they promised a close door meeting? Transparency please. Real shame .
2/5/2014 7:51:20 AM
musicferret says:
Needs before wants.

Its the basic idea that people, companies, cities etc. should follow in their budgeting.

Our city is failing so very hard at this most basic idea that should be driving the budget process. This is not 'cane shaking' like some on here put it down to. This is basic fiscal responsibility.
2/5/2014 11:07:18 AM
Me n My Opinion says:
I'm curious to know if your house was fully paid for before you bought a TV or some sort of music listening system?
2/5/2014 2:05:04 PM
fastball says:
Good one!
2/5/2014 4:37:10 PM
Eastender says:
Typical simplistic thinking or lack thereof.
2/7/2014 3:18:06 AM
j_northey says:
For the budget and impact on taxpayers I'd like comparisons to other cities of similar size in the province. I moved here from Halton Hills (Georgetown) and it was around 50k people and I paid about $1000 a year more in taxes for fewer services (no outdoor rinks, no transit, just one public pool, etc.).

So I'd challenge council for apples to apples (or as close as possible). See what cities of 75k-125k are charging on average and try to understand why we pay more or less for services. In some cases being so remote will cost more, in other cases it will cost less (land is much, much cheaper here than in the Toronto region). That is how to tell if we get value for the dollar.
2/5/2014 11:23:44 PM
Tbaylifer 1 says:
Yes, I did buy a T.V. after I bought my home but of course I first paid for the utilities to be hooked up and there was food in the fridge and then I only bought a T.V. within my budget. I didn't go out and buy a 52 inch HD before the later. Needs before wants.Think prioities.
2/6/2014 6:50:16 AM
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