Council approves fee increase

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

Fort Frances council approved a 4 per cent user fee increase as recommended by the Administration & Finance Executive Committee.

Dawn Galusha, town treasurer, said in a report submitted to council, that user fees are an important part of the operational budget preparation for the coming year.

This percentage increase is reflected in the Ontario Provincial Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI is a method by which inflation is measured. It is used by governments to estimate the average market basket of consumer goods purchased by households between two given periods. It is also used as a guide for the user fee increases for the coming calendar year,” Galusha said in the report.

Galusha said Ontario CPI indicates inflationary increase of 4 per cent for the period of August 2020 to August 2021 and the Federal CPI indicates a 4.1 per cent change for the same period as published by Statistics Canada.

Coun. Douglas Judson said this percentage increase would seem a big hike from previous years, but the Ontario CPI inflation rate is what council has followed every year.

“For those who are perhaps going to be experiencing some sticker shock when they see that number, I think they need to know that this is the baseline and from here we will have a process to consider at council whether that increase is actually quite drastic for some of the particular fees,” Judson said.

Administration is seeking direction for the inflationary increase for the 2022 user fees. Divisions will bring user fee schedules forward to their respective executive committees in November or December.

Judson also noted that last year’s CPI increase was around 0.6 per cent, and in a normal year, inflation would be around 2 per cent.

Coun. John McTaggart said he has a concern that they are comparing this year’s prices to last year’s prices in the height of the pandemic, and that they are jamming through a fairly high increase. McTaggart added that many people would be hurting from this increase.

Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft said he has never been an advocate for tax increase, since he was advocating for a less tax increase last year than the town ended up with.

“Having said that, the municipality is going to see significant increases in cost next year,” Wiedenhoeft. “And if we don’t increase our revenues, we’re gonna have to cut back our services. With a cutback of services, you’re probably looking at employee layoffs.”

Grants, taxations and user fees are the three primary methods the town could increase its revenue, Wiedenhoeft said, adding that he favours a user fee increase because it affects people who actually use the facilities or events.

“If we don’t raise the user fees significantly this year, then we will have to compensate for the increase in increased taxes, which hits everybody,” Wiedenhoeft added.

Galusha said divisions will bring user fee schedules forward to their respective executive committees in November or December.