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Your property taxes would drop $8 per year under proposed budget

Budget deliberations have officially kicked off in Thorold, with City Hall hires at centre of discussion; 'Our staffing resources did not keep up with [the city's] growth,' says CAO
Thorold City Hall

On Tuesday evening, the 2023 Thorold City Budget deliberations officially kicked off. 

The first budget meeting primarily focused on possible new hires at City Hall.

“The city’s growth has been unprecedented over the past five years,” said the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, Manoj Dilwaria, in his opening remarks. “Our staffing resources did not keep up with this growth and this unfortunately hinders our ability to provide the level of customer service we wish to provide to our community.”

The proposed 2023 city budget would see a net levy reduction of 0.51 per cent, which would decrease the city portion of the average residential tax bill by $8.

The budget proposal includes several new City Hall hires such as by-law parking officers and city planners.

Councillor Jim Handley referred to his previous request for an organizational staff review, and said that he did not feel comfortable signing off on new hires with that review still pending.

“Why have an organization review if we’re going to hire everyone?” he asked. “Maybe bring in a professional to let us know what we really need because a lot of times it’s about wants, not needs.”

Dilwaria explained that some of these positions, such as the city planners, need to be filled because otherwise City Hall has to outsource them which could be costly.

Councillor Anthony Longo questioned the need to hire a community events coordinator. He said there aren’t enough city-run events to warrant the position.

“That position is something that has evolved out of a decreasing reliability of available volunteers,” answered Geoff Holman, the Director of Public Works and Community Services. “While there are still members of the community who are willing to participate they are not willing to take on some of the risks that are associated with the duties they have been assigned in the past.”

City Hall has recently taken on the responsibilities for the Santa Claus Parade and the two-day Canada Day festivities, after volunteers flagged liability concerns. If a community events coordinator is hired, City Hall hopes to put on more events, such as a local farmers market.

The community events coordinator could also help out with the city’s tourism needs, since City Hall decided not to renew its contract with Venture Niagara, which has been responsible for Thorold tourism since 2015. 

Councillors said they’d rather see the events outsourced or have the position be a temporary contract tied to specific events. After much discussion, the hire was sent back to City Hall staff for review.

Also discussed during Tuesday’s meeting were the possible hiring of a Deputy Fire Chief and a Fire Prevention Officer.

“Currently the Fire Chief is on-call 24-7 whether I go to conferences or seminars, a vacation — I’m still responsible for what happens in this city with no managerial relief,” said Fire Chief Terry Dixon. “The importance of the Deputy Fire Chief is to help split that workload.”

Next up for discussion was the hiring of two new parking by-law officers.

City Hall currently has four people working in their by-law department: two officers who enforce the residential licensing program, and two officers who take care of all other by-law needs. 

With the new hiring the parking by-law could be better enforced. Although by-law officers would still only be able to work during daytime hours, a policy that has recently come under scrutiny.

“We are working with the collective agreement so we are bound by that,” said Simpson. “There will be a report coming to council very shortly with regards to enhanced service levels such as evening coverage but the current positions would not be sufficient to be able to provide that.”

After two hours of deliberation, council decided to suspend the meeting. Budget deliberations are set to continue next Wednesday. 

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Bernard Lansbergen

About the Author: Bernard Lansbergen

Bernard was born and raised in Belgium but moved to Canada in 2012 and has lived in Niagara since 2020. Bernard loves telling people’s stories and wants to get to know those that make Thorold into the great place it is
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