North Bay council has passed perhaps its most controversial budget ever. In a 9-2 vote, the operating budget passed creating a tax levy increase of 1.5 percent. However the increase would have been at least four percent and that’s where the controversy comes in. Council is keeping the tax levy low by using North Bay Hydro money to help pay for operations. Two councillors, Tanya Vrebosch and Chris Mayne, opposed calling in the loans but still voted for the budget.
Mayne says by forcing Hydro to borrow $25-million, the payback on the interest over 20 years will be at least $8 million. Mayne says the alternative was a four percent hike this year. The two councillors who voted against the budget were Mike Anthony and Mark King. Before the vote, council heard from Don Rennick, a member of the North Bay Taxpayers Association. For months Rennick has told council that calling in the Hydro loans is a bad move.
He says while it provides a short term gain for council, it creates a long term financial burden on taxpayers. Rennick told council it was mind boggling that council created a borrowing scenario to pay for operations and urged council to vote against the move. Rennick has told council in the past that it has to live within its means and if job cuts and salary freezes is what it takes to get to a 1.5 percent tax levy increase, then so be it.