THUNDER BAY – Viewpoint – A group of 30 taxpayers in Thunder Bay is calling on city council to re-structure city hall operations.
The group met Saturday at the Mary JL Black Library to discuss the possibility of a hefty tax hike in this year’s municipal budget.
The group pointed to the revenue advantage that Thunder Bay has that’s not shared by any other city our size. It’s a clue that the city’s operations are too big and tries to do too many things.
Thunder Bay receives more than $20 million a year in revenues from TBaytel, the local casino, and Synergy North.
Yet despite all that extra cash we have some of the highest property taxes in the country.
The conclusion was that there’s something wrong. On its face, the city of Thunder Bay is spending way more money each year than its tax base can support.
Those attending were asked to provide their ideas for reducing the costs of city hall operations. No votes were held and there was no unanimity on all of the suggestions.
But the group felt it was important that city councillors at least discuss the following suggestions during the budget debates remaining. To that end, the following ideas were forwarded to councillors:
1) Councillors should direct administration to produce a detailed organizational chart of all managerial positions within the city in order to use that chart to flatten the layers of management at city hall. The basic operating principle is that a manager must manage at least two other employees, otherwise the management position is eliminated.
2) Suspend the operations of all ad hoc and advisory committees and eliminate their budgets (except those required by provincial statute), saving secretarial costs and eliminating the need for city hall staff to be diverted from their primary tasks.
3) Contract the delivery of recreation services to third-party non-governmental organizations in the city such as Our Kids Count and the 55+ centre, reducing the number of in-house recreation staff.
4) Suspend all spending on the design of a new police station until the Police Services board conducts a proper community consultation on the future of policing in Thunder Bay.
5) Stage downtown core renewals so the city is not spending large construction dollars on both cores in a single year.
6) Sell Chippewa Park to Fort William First Nation, reducing the city’s overall park responsibilities.
7) In 2022 the city committed to hiring new by-law enforcement officers in order to reduce the burden on the police department; council should limit funding for new police officers to a total of 5 in the 2023 budget to see if the overall police burden is indeed reduced by the field work of the new by-law enforcement officers.
8) Contract out Provincial Offences Court prosecutions to a local law firm.
9) Contract out all repetitive, low-value legal work to local law firms and cancel plans to spend $1 million in renovations to city hall for legal department.
10) Establish a Municipal Services Corporation to deliver back office services such as payroll and realty services to the city, TBaytel, Synergy North, and the District Social Services Administration Board. As well, sell those back office services to surrounding municipalities allowing them to reduce their office staff. Such a corporation would allow the city to cut back its back office staff and reduce the costs of each of the partner entities.
11) Establish a Municipal Services Corporation with surrounding municipalities to operate a pavement batch plant and a district-wide paving operation as an alternative to depending on just a few private paving companies. The argument here is that there’s too little competition in the private sector for these services to keep prices down.
12) Establish a volunteer fire department to complement and reduce the number of professional fire fighters, especially in the rural areas.
13) In 2021, the city had a surplus of $10.9 million. Those funds were spread through multiple city reserve funds. Those funds should be tapped in 2023 in order to reduce the tax levy increase to 2 per cent.