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Update: Revised municipal tax levy sitting at 5.48%

By CJ Goater Feb 8, 2024 | 5:30 AM

Thunder Bay City Council - Acadia Broadcasting File

Thunder Bay’s budget was approved at the committee of the whole meeting on Wednesday and is now pending ratification at the February 12 city council meeting.

After the final round of budget reviews the before-growth municipal tax levy is sitting at 5.93 per cent and the after-growth is sitting at 5.48 per cent.

The final budget review meeting, like those before it, ultimately saw very minimal changes to the budget.

Changes affecting the municipal tax levy:

Council approved an increase of $250,000 to the Thunder Bay Police Service 2024 proposed budget. The increase in the budget is to cover the cost of the increased fee associated with the Cobourg Police Services providing criminal records checks for Thunder Bay.

The TBPS plans on reviewing the cost-benefit of bringing this service back in-house.

This amendment increased the municipal tax levy by 0.11%.

The second item that affected the tax levy that was approved by council was an alternate financing strategy for the MultiUse Trail Expansion.

At the February 1, Special Committee of the Whole meeting, council approved a budget amendment to increase the Recreation Trails Capital Budget by $85,500.

Citizen taxes were initially identified as the source of financing.

The 2024 proposed Budget includes a transfer of $1.7M to the Capital General Reserve Fund, due in part to debt savings from the retirement of debentures in 2023.

To reduce the impact to the taxpayer an offsetting reduction of $85,500 to the amount being transferred to the Capital General Reserve Fund, effectively reinvesting debt retirement savings to finance the Multi-Use Trail Expansion was approved.

This amendment resulted in a decrease in the municipal tax levy by 0.04%.

The 2024 proposed Budget includes a transfer of $150,000 to the Renew Thunder Bay Reserve Fund from the municipal tax levy. The purpose of this reserve fund is to provide funding for projects that would not typically be included in the city’s ongoing capital programs.

The reserve fund by-law identifies annual contributions to be made from the TbayTel dividend (special and performance dividends).

The current estimated uncommitted balance in the Reserve Fund at the end of 2023 is $15.2 million. The 2024 proposed Budget includes planned projects totaling $1.05 million.

Considering the healthy balance within the reserve fund, administration recommended removing the contribution of $150,000 to the Renew Thunder Bay Reserve Fund, and council approved.

This is a change that has been seen in the last two budget processes and reduces the tax. The city treasures office does not feel the contribution was required this year.

This amendment decreased the municipal tax levy by 0.07%

A smaller adjustment suggested by administration also lowered the tax levy.

The Community Improvement Program supports the upgrading of buildings in the city’s Strategic Core Areas through grants that include reimbursement of building/planning fees and financial incentives for upper-floor residential/office and lower-floor commercial conversion/improvement and façade improvements.

In the 2024 proposed Capital Budget, the planned CIP expenditure of $100,000 was financed from the municipal tax levy.

Administration identified an opportunity to utilize other revenues to finance a portion of this program, reducing the impact to the tax levy.

This amendment resulted in a decrease to the municipal tax levy by 0.01%.

Council also looked at user fee increases for golf services, but no decision was made at the final budget review meeting, with council sending a memo back for further information from administration.

Proposed golf user fee increases:

  • Golf Season Pass – Adult (36 years to 59 years) Double (7 days/week) – 4.55 per cent increase
  • Golf Season Pass – Double (Strathcona & Chapples 7 days/week) Intermediate Adult (23-25 years) – 4.83 per cent increase
  • Daily Green Fees (Chapples & Strathcona 7 days/week) – 9 Hole – 5.26 per cent increase
  • Daily Green Fees (Chapples & Strathcona 7 days/week) – 18 Hole – 6.13 per cent increase

This amendment would have resulted in a decrease to the municipal tax levy of 0.01%, and its still possible this is approved before budget ratification.

Councillor Dominic Pasqualino proposed the removal of parking costs at the marina. “I would like Council to consider removing paid parking from the marina in its entirety,” said Councillor Pasqualino “Our marina is a beautiful attraction and I don’t believe that people should have to pay to visit it.”

Ultimately council decided against this in parking fees are still coming to the marina.

The Neebing Ward Councillor Greg Johnsen gave one last attempt to keep Saturday bus service for his ward by calling a re-vote, but once again council declined to approve the return of service.

The budget process is set to wrap up on February 12 when the 2024 proposed budget gets ratified at city council.