Thorold’s Council met in General Committee Wednesday night for the second of four scheduled budget meetings. Much of the first part was taken up with the issue of the Port Robinson Ferry (Bridge-It) adding $33, 250 to the levy, which, at the end of the first meeting stood at a 2.43% Thorold increase, for an average cost of app. $31.00, depending upon various factors such as class, assessed value, etc.
At the first meeting, they had approved in principle hiring an IT manager at $100,000 per year. As part of that discussion, they had requested a job description before final approval, which they received Wednesday before the meeting.
Unfortunately, due possibly to a misunderstanding, this set off a whole new discussion on the matter. Nobody was actually against hiring someone. There were initially just some questions asked to confirm the effect on overall corporate productivity, etc. Councillor Longo insisted that the position was necessary, saying that if they wanted the corporation to improve, “we have to invest in ourselves.” It was brought home several times by several Councilors that Thorold well behind in on-line services. There was a bit of confusion about the cost of a second contract position to get the new software running (which had been OK’d years ago but never spent due to a lack of staff to get going), but it was finally understood that the cost for that person was included in the software purchase. In the end, Council approved the hire – again.
There was a discussion concerning a suggested cut to the Façade Programme because of the benefits to the appearance of Thorold’s downtown, but it was pointed out that there had only been one application in 2015 and that the amount remaining should be plenty.
There was also a discussion of finding savings in the Fire Services budget as suggested by Councillor Handley, and consisted mostly of giving the Fire Chief a year to find them before the next budget, a move supported by Councillor Longo. After suggesting that they couldn’t know now where those savings might be, since there has as yet been no report from the Council’s Fire Services Review Committee, Councillor Neale agreed, saying “I think it’s achievable” as long as they gave the Chief full latitude in finding the savings. Pointing out also upcoming negotiations with firefighters, Councillor Ugulini commented that “We need to find the cost savings that are achievable” within the confines of matters such safety and the collective agreements.
At the end the night, the following new items had affected the budget: 1) they approved the cost of the Port Robinson Ferry at $33,250 and; 2) staff had informed them of savings in the form of grants that had expected to be cut that were not.
At the end of the night, the increase to the Thorold portion of the property taxes stood at 2.53%.
There are two more meetings scheduled for the 2016 budget. If they go like Wednesday’s meeting, Staff had better get busy adding several more.