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Proposed city budget includes some hefty user fee hikes

User fees for services like transit, city pools, and ice time rentals are set to increase by 3% to 5% on average in 2023.
Churchill pool four
User fees for municipal services and facilities including the Churchill Pool would rise by 3 to 5 per cent in the proposed 2023 City of Thunder Bay budget. (File photo)

THUNDER BAY – A proposed city budget that’s raised concern over its 6.2 per cent tax levy increase includes smaller, but still significant, increases to a number of user fees for services including transit and recreation.

The average proposed increases in those areas range from three to five per cent.

A small number of fees would jump by much more, like a proposed 28 per cent increase for public birthday party bookings at city pools, and a nearly 18 per cent hike for six-month family passes to the Churchill and Volunteer pools.

Meanwhile, municipal child care fees will fall sharply thanks to new federal investments.

Most user fees rose by 2.75 per cent in last year’s budget, with notable exceptions like a transit fare freeze.

In a statement, general manager of community services Kelly Robertson said the proposed increases follow the fee models and strategies approved by city council

"The goal of user fees is to maintain an efficient, balanced formula to cover the costs of programs/services based on the benefit offered to the public versus the individual," she said. "In general, the greater the public benefit, the greater the subsidy from the general tax payer reflecting the community benefit."

The full proposed user fee schedule for 2023 is available online as part of the draft budget, which city council will tweak over the coming month ahead of a final vote on Feb. 6.

In many cases, fee changes won’t take effect until April 1.

Public transit

At Thunder Bay Transit, user fees are proposed to increase by an average of three per cent, creating an estimated $69,000 in revenue.

Cash fare would remain frozen at $3, while 10-ticket single ride passes would rise by two per cent to $25.50.

The city is in the second year of a three-year pilot program that expanded free rides to children 12 and under (it was previously five and under), and expanded discount youth pass eligibility from 18 to 24 years old.

In budget notes, staff say those steps are “viewed as ridership incentive measures and are anticipated to be revenue neutral.”

Monthly passes would increase by between 2.5 and 3.64 per cent, with adult monthly passes reaching $82, discounted monthly passes $68, and senior and youth monthly passes $57.

The annual pass for seniors would rise three per cent to $510.

LIFT+ cancellation and no-show fees would remain frozen at $3 and $6, respectively.

Ice time and stadium rentals

Fees in the recreation and culture department will increase by an average of five per cent, creating an estimated $103,000 in additional revenue for the city.

About half of that would come from proposed increases to ice time and stadium rentals.

Ice rental rates for city arenas would increasing by five per cent, as would rentals at Port Arthur Stadium and Fort William Stadium.

That would put ice rental rates at satellite arenas at $148.17 per hour for minor hockey, and $187.39 per hour for adult hockey for prime time ice.

City administration proposes public skating admission rates go up by around two per cent.

Pools and recreation

The cost of most Canada Games Complex memberships would rise by four per cent under the proposed budget, with one-month memberships up by five per cent.

Staff propose a three per cent increase to general admission at the Complex, rising to $9.40 for an adult single visit and $21.78 for a family.

At the Churchill and Volunteer pools, cost increases are proposed for most admissions and passes, ranging up to a whopping 17.7 per cent hike for six-month family passes.

The cost for pool rentals, including for birthday parties, is also set to rise by between 24 and 41 per cent.

Fees for most fitness and aquatic programs at city facilities would rise by three per cent.

Meanwhile, the budget would freeze most rental rates at community centres and for Youth Move programming.

Municipal child care

Notably, most municipal child care rates will fall sharply — by around 50 per cent for children under six — thanks to a federal deal with Ontario and other provinces that’s intended to lower rates to $10 a day by 2026.

User fees for children not eligible for the program will increase by five per cent, creating an estimated $10,000 in revenue

The budget also reflects the city’s divestment from licensed home child care, which has been taken over by Our Kids Count.

That’s expected to save the city $139,400 in 2023.

This story has been updated with comment from City of Thunder Bay administration.


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