Some highlights from the 2019 budget discussions as reported by Jeff Walters on the CBC website
- City councillors in Thunder Bay, Ont., got a surprise when administration started projecting how much the city will spend in the future, just to maintain its current assets. Administration said the city has a $20M annual infrastructure gap. It means the city could spend up to $20M more per year, for the next decade and a half, before city roads and facilities are at an acceptable standard for maintenance.
- “Have we taken on an infrastructure deficit since amalgamation in 1970, or has there been a point where we have fully funded [infrastructure] ever?” asked Coun. Cody Fraser. City manager Norm Gale said administration doesn’t have information going that far back, and he was unsure if the city has ever actually been caught up with its maintenance.
In reality, I believe the infrastructure gap is widening at an increased rate as projects such as Prince Arthur’s Landing, a $71 million PLUS project less than 10 years old, is constantly in already in need of repairs. 10 years is too early.
Yearly maintenance of that project is severely underfunded. Not an usual situation in this city. Build it. Leave it. Replace it. That is how things work in this city.
More often than not, what gets built is of substandard quality and fails sooner than should be expected.
Another major topic of discussion was the city’s debt load, currently pegged at $206M. That figure will rise to $216M over the year, before slowly decreasing. Administration said the city is still pegged as an affordable place to live, with the value of a home to the annual household income lower than the provincial average.
- The city said it also does well when scoring the percentage of income used to pay property taxes, which has also decreased. However, the city is still higher in its tax rates for residential, commercial and industrial properties compared to the provincial average. Administration also suggested reinvesting any savings from debt services costs, which are currently about $6M per year into capital, to help pay down the infrastructure debt.
Sooo, we will never close the infrastructure gap, its possible that infrastructure maintenance and replacement has always been neglected, we are currently spending $6M per year servicing our $206M, soon to be $216M, debt and our tax rates are higher than the provincial average.
No surprises there.