Thunder Bay city council has voted to accept the 2013 municipal budget, despite some councillors expressing concern over the tax increase slated for this year.
The new budget calls for a 2.6 per cent overall tax increase, which means the average homeowner will pay $89 more this year.
It’s an increase that did not sit well with Coun. Rebecca Johnson. She, along with councillors Linda Rydholm and Larry Hebert, voted against the budget.
"People are having a really hard time," Johnson said.
"I keep saying this: citizens give us money. So how do we, in turn, spend their money? Yet, they have to cut back [and] businesses are cutting back."
Instead, Johnson said she wants the city to bring down costs through service cuts and further savings in other departments.
"There's no real service level reductions," she said. "We can't continue to keep on having no service reductions, so is there not some place that we can really explore that?"
Public input still welcome
City Manager Tim Commisso replied that the solution to reducing taxes is not that simple. He said the tax increase is primarily being driven by capital costs, like infrastructure.
"We're not cutting services, we're trying to maintain services and, in some cases, enhance services," he said.
"What we're trying to do is be more efficient. I think we've been very successful at that."
Commisso said city departments are continuing to find ways to save money.
The final ratification vote on the 2013 budget is scheduled for March 4; however the public will be able to give their input at city hall Wednesday evening before it is ratified.
Water rates will go up by about 7 per cent, or $5 per month.
Thunder Bay's mayor said he's pleased with the budget — and that the 2.6 per cent tax increase is being put to good use.
"People have told us they want the infrastructure fixed in this city," Keith Hobbs said.
"Our roads are deplorable and I think … when we see the city that we got and the growth that we have, we're going to have a beautiful city. But yes, you have to pay for it."
Hobbs said he feels city hall isn't raising taxes by too much.
At the Wednesday night meeting, council has invited the public to make presentations lasting no longer than 10 minutes each. The session begins at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.