Thunder Bay officials say in order to improve the city’s infrastructure and attract new business, the city will need to raise more money, meaning residents should expect to pay more taxes.
About 25 people attended a meeting Wednesday night to discuss how the city will spend its infrastructure dollars.
Currently, the city’s top priority is widening Golf Links Road to four lanes to accommodate increased traffic, a project worth about $8.2 million.
But even with increases in the roads budget, city manager Tim Commisso says the city needs more money.
"We don't have in the EIRP [Enhanced Infrastructure Rehabilitation Program] quite frankly enough money to deal with these big projects," he said, but added there is money to deal with smaller projects, like resurfacing May Street and the Harbourview Expressway.
Infrastructure 'wish list'
Thunder Bay’s total wish list of infrastructure projects over the next five years would cost about $137 million, including $2.6 million on major roadwork and $500,000 on a Balmoral Street storm sewer and active transportation routes. The list also includes capital projects, such as a study on a new events centre, youth centre or arts gallery.
Commisso said a plan to help pay for the improvements would see any city budget savings put directly into infrastructure. He also says that to reduce costs, the city does the bare minimum on construction projects.
"Again it comes down to money. Is there enough money to really do some of that additional work, whether it’s tree planting, you know, other elements?” he said. “The reality of it is there's not a lot for that.”
The city’s goal is to keep any property tax hikes around two per cent.
In a survey of Thunder Bay residents conducted by Ipsos Reid earlier this year, 41 per cent of respondents said road maintenance was the service most in need of improvement.
While some people at Wednesday’s meeting renewed their calls to get the roadwork done, they also said they don’t want to see taxes go up.
Resident Henry Wojak says he isn’t happy with the city’s infrastructure plan and says taxes are already too high as they are.
"So this is basically what we're doing again with this new policy, this new...tax savings," Wojak said.
City council will debate on Monday how to pay for the infrastructure wish list.