Public budget input should have been discussed more: Gilson

A report on what to consider in the town’s 2003 budget process among the public input provided during a council meeting last month was approved at Monday night’s meeting—despite one councillor’s protests that the ideas were not discussed at any length.
Among Couns. Dave Bourgeault, Neil Kabel, and Roy Avis, the only one voting against the report on the public budget input was Coun. Struchan Gilson, who took particular exception to the town’s current process for the establishment of tax rates with regards to any increase.
“I’m sure the managers are smart enough to know they could use an increase to get done what they have to get done,” Coun. Gilson remarked during the committee of the whole meeting.
Resident Alan Tibbetts had suggested the town look at implementing a gradual one percent tax increase per annum to account for inflation and provide a cushion for any unforeseen costs if any of the revenues go unused in a given year.
He also had recommended a hotel tax.
Coun. Gilson added facing inevitable inflation without tax increases is an uphill battle, especially in the face of deteriorating tourist attractions like Fort St. Pierre and the Lookout Tower, and that the solution was just a matter of “common sense.”
Tibbetts’ request was rebutted on the grounds council will continue to evaluate any tax increases on a budget-to-budget basis, and that a hotel tax was not within the town’s authority to levy, especially in consideration of the tourist industry.
But Coun. Bourgeault also countered Coun. Gilson, saying, “You’re advocating tax increase every year, which is not feasible. If we wanted to get everything done that needs to get done, we’d be looking at a 50 percent tax increase.
“I realize there’s things that need to be fixed. But what’s important to me, as a councillor, is first and foremost the roads, the water, and the sewer,” he stressed.
“We’ve capped the commercial and heavy industrial. So who’s going to pay? The residential.”
Other points of the report included:
•declining funding for the recently-established soup kitchen at the Joy of Life Fellowship Church, claiming not only did the organization itself fail to come forward with the request (it was made by resident Cathy Sinninghe), but such a service isn’t a municipal responsibility; and
•declining funding for the Fort Frances Native Women’s Association for a “safe home,” as it had in 2001.
Citing this again is not a town responsibility, letters of support, signed by Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, instead will be sent to the provincial and federal governments.
The public once again will be invited to be part of the 2003 budget process during a meeting this fall or early winter.