The Dryden Observer

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A bad situation gets worse for city budget decision makers

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
It was a bit painful at Monday’s Committee Of the Whole Meeting in council chambers to watch the scene unfold.

The four remaining members of the Dryden Development Corporation (DDC), who have been holding the fort since the departure of Economic Development Manager James Harvey, presented to city council a case for their individual and collective roles to continue into the future.

Despite their brave faces their frustration was palpable, a physical presence in the room, kept at bay by a large contingent of supporters who showed up to back Nicole Gale, Dana Soucie, Catherine Dashnay and Andi Kidd.

I’d imagine they are not alone in the stress and uncertainty they are currently experiencing. Anyone who collects a paycheque from the city these days must feel on notice given the events of the past week.

When it comes time to demonstrate one’s worth to the operation, the DDC have a harder job than some departments whose work is more tangible, clearly observable and better aligned with the traditional ‘roads and rinks’ mandate of municipal tax dollars.

While I believe that the DDC presents good value for the three per cent of the city’s total budget it encompasses, the hard truth of it is that the financial obstacles before the city may simply be too great.

Domtar’s assessment appeal has placed another $1 million hole in front of the 2013 budget. This is a budget that has already cut close to a million dollars already. The low hanging fruit is already gone.

 

I hope that someone at the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is having a very bad week.

When you look at the circumstances around Domtar’s Assessment Review Board Hearing in an effort to determine what went so terribly wrong for the communities of Dryden and Espanola, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the city’s MPAC representation (which costs around $120,000 annually) did an inadequate job of advising either community how to prepare for the resulting decision.

The fact that MPAC advised Dryden to base its budget projections on an assessment figure that turned out to be 60 per cent higher than the board’s actual decision is an indication that MPAC themselves were blindsided by the provincial review board.

It appears as though the Assessment Review Board took this opportunity to outright reject MPAC’s model of assessing industrial properties, instead favouring a new model presented by Domtar representatives which assessed the mill at $14 million.

A friend wrote on my Facebook wall, ‘There’s more than $14 million in scrap metal at that mill.”

So who pays the price for this anomalous misstep? We do, a community already beset with untold financial difficulties and zero threshold for further unanticipated financial problems.

We can only hope that the city’s efforts to bring this situation to the attention of some provincial cabinet ministers will result in some easing of the pressure.

Chris Marchand

 

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