Thunder Bay city council cuts $40k from proposed budget
Tax levy increase currently at 3.11%, could be 3.69% if police receive full funding
While it was not a marathon-length meeting, city councillors in Thunder Bay, Ont., found very little in savings during their second budget deliberations meeting of 2019.
- Thunder Bay city council debates for hours, but does not lower 2019 budget
- Thunder Bay's 2019 budget proposed 2.95% tax increase
Council agreed to cut $40,000 from the proposed budget, which was funding allocated to Common Voice Northwest, a volunteer-run advocacy group that works with municipalities across the region.
"There is more than enough in my mind, organizations representing the interests of the district," said Mayor Bill Mauro.
"That sometimes, less is better," he said, referring to other groups like the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, or Thunder Bay District Municipal League that could advocate for the region. The city does have a lobbyist working on its behalf.
That reduction was the only concrete savings found, while council also debated the need for a new senior manager, who would create a model for Indigenous relations and inclusion. The job has a budgeted value of $145,100.
Councillor Rebecca Johnson had concerns that the city was creating more new positions than it was eliminating, an issue she raises most years during the budget process.
City manager Norm Gale hinted that position, along with some others, could remain vacant. Gale will deliver a report on January 30, the final night of budget deliberations, to show how the city could eliminate $3M from the proposed budget.
Gale said on Tuesday with the elimination of $3M in spending, "you will be confronted with choices that are not palateable. This is not low hanging fruit. The public will be alarmed, and will wish to weigh in."
One major project discussed once again at the council table was the creation of an indoor turf facility. Council committed on Tuesday night to create a reserve fund for the facility, which already has $4 million allocated to it. revenue from the Municipal Accommodation Tax in 2019 will also get allocated to the turf facilty.
Still, Mayor Bill Mauro, who called the facility a "legacy project" for the current council, wanted to put more money into the fund.
He proposed to put any additional dividends, or the "Special Dividend" from Tbaytel, if one is received this year, into the reserve fund.
"I am worried that the public may not be there, in terms of - I watched this happen with the event centre," said Coun. Shelby Ch'ng.
"People get really nervous when we go full throttle into things."
Council voted against putting additional funds, at this point, into the reserve fund.
If Tbaytel does have a special dividend in 2019, the money is automatically put into the Renew Thunder Bay Fund, as per current policy.
Council will continue its budget deliberations on January 23.