Chamber of Commerce says Thunder Bay runs inefficiently

A report commissioned by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce suggests the city does not spend tax dollars wisely.

A report commissioned by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce suggests the city does not spend its tax dollars wisely.

The chamber presented the report to its members and the news media on Friday afternoon.

Two Lakehead University professors authored the document using publicly-available data, such as a study done by BMA Management Consulting, which compares municipalities across Ontario.

The authors concluded that out of nine cities in the province, including many in northern Ontario, Thunder Bay comes last in a comparison of operating costs, general government spending and tax rates.

Chamber of Commerce President Charla Robinson said council needs to trim the municipal budget.

Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce President Charla Robinson speaks to the media about a report suggesting the city is inefficient in how it spends tax dollars. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"Is this really helping us to achieve our vision or is this something where if we don't do something to control those costs where we're actually going to undermine our community?" she asked rhetorically during an interview with CBC News.

Zero-tax increase

City councillor Joe Virdiramo said the chamber's wish to reduce taxes, or keep them frozen, is not realistic.

Westfort Ward Councillor Joe Virdiramo notes taxes cannot be reduced or frozen, if the city is to maintain current services. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"Then how are you going to continue operating the city? We had that a few years ago. We had for a number of years, zero. And, we know where that got us."

City manager Tim Commisso said he was surprised by the report.

He said in the past few years, council has made efforts to restrain the overall budget while putting more money into infrastructure.

"The last five years overall budget excluding capital has gone up by point-eight-two percent. So, less than one percent. Our capital budget, again infrastructure renewal, has gone up every year by twenty four percent. We're consciously increasing our spending on infrastructure renewal." 

Virdiramo cautioned the chamber that if there is a public will to have taxes frozen or reduced, services will need to be cut.

"Eventually it will come to that. We'll have to see where the citizens want to see the cuts. However, we enjoy a good quality of life in Thunder Bay."

The property tax projections for a house valued at approximately $138,000 in Thunder Bay through 2017. Data supplied by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce. (Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce)