City reduces operating expenses by $470,335 for upcoming year

The City of Thompson unveiled the finer details of its budget for the upcoming year during an April 26 financial plan meeting.

Coun. Kathy Valentino walked members of the public through the city’s next fiscal year using a PowerPoint presentation prepared by members of the finance and administration committee.

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Reduction in expenses

In light of the recent layoff notices at Vale, it didn’t come as a surprise that local government officials are planning to tighten their belts this year.

While the city’s expenses are projected to total $31,549,798, a 2.67 per cent drop from last year, Valentino explained that they’ve also managed to cut $470,335 in operating expenses. 

This reduction in expenses comes with a cost, since the city will be trimming hours and services at key facilities like the Thompson Regional Community Centre and the Norplex Pool, including outright eliminating the summer day camps program.

This decision drew the attention of Thompson Citizen and Nickel Belt News publisher Lynn Taylor, who said that local parents already have a tough time finding after-school programs and daycare options in the community.

“I really hope that you can take a second look at it,” she said during the public hearing portion of the meeting. “I’m really concerned about all the children that are going be left as latchkey kids for the summer and we want people to stay here in this community and if we don’t provide these kind of services [they won’t].”

These cuts will also have a big impact on certain controlled entities and community groups that normally receive funding from the city. 

Not only will organizations like the Thompson Public Library and Thompson Zoological Society be getting $7,500 and $25,000 less in 2018, respectively, but other groups like Spirit Way and the Thompson Chamber of Commerce won’t be receiving any funding at all.

However, the Thompson Recycling Centre was hit the hardest by these reductions, since they will go from receiving $240,000 in 2017 to $160,000 in 2018.

While Mayor Dennis Fenske admitted that this $80,000 cutback looks bad at face value, he informed the public that the recycling centre’s board has been able to reduce their operating costs annually over the last couple years. He also mentioned that this reduction in funding won’t result in a reduction of recycling services for the residents of Thompson. 

Valentino also reiterated that the city will be retaining the entirety of the grant-in-lieu funds based on their new four year agreement with Vale. This means that the School District of Mystery Lake and Local Government District (LGD) of Mystery Lake won’t be receiving any more GIL funds until at least 2022.

Investments

The city set aside $400,000 for the Thompson Hotel Association, an increase of $200,000 over last year, which will be funded by both the accommodation tax and the economic development/ tourism reserve.

This decision falls in line with recent city council meetings featuring speakers from the Thompson Chamber of Commerce and Travel Manitoba, who’ve spoken at length about the merits of turning the Hub of the North into a tourist destination to help fill the financial void left by the mining industry.

The city also decided to sink another $150,000 into the Community Safety Officers (CSO) program, which is a substantial step up compared to the $119,178 that was put aside in last year’s budget.

Overall, protection services still represent the biggest chunk of the city’s total expenses, eating up 32 per cent of the pie.

The city will also be undertaking a number of capital projects in the next fiscal year, including construction on Station Road ($850,000), drainage at the Burntwood Trailer Court ($125,000) and equipment upgrades to the Norplex Pool ($269,000).

Business tax and mill rate

For the second year in a row, the business tax in Thompson will be on the decrease, going from 4.24 per cent in 2017 to 3.99 per cent in 2018.

Meanwhile, the 2018 residential mill rate has increased by 1.13 per cent, while the commercial mill rate has fallen by 0.55 per cent.

The next step in the budget process will take place at the May 7 council meeting, which will feature the second and third reading of the levy bylaw based on the 2018 financial plan.

To read this document in its entirety, please visit the “files and downloads” section of the city’s official website. 

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