The Township of Schreiber is looking for answers from the community after announcing layoffs of four municipal staff, including its community development officer.
A declining industrial and commercial base is forcing the township of 900 on the north shore of Lake Superior to make some tough decisions.
With the cuts taking effect July 12, the municipality is calling a town hall meeting May 31 to discuss their financial situation and the future of the community.
“I think it sends out a message loud and clear that there's a financial struggle going on here,” said Mayor Don McArthur. “Certainly I've had feedback saying, how do you cut your community development, that's the future and lifeblood of the community?”
With properties in tax arrears, revenues shrinking, no industrial tax base and an aging population, the township ran a budget deficit in 2010 of more than $60,000. The municipality is proposing a 6.7 per cent tax hike.
“It's an awful choice to have to make,” said McArthur.
“We're going to lay out why we made the decisions we did,” said McArthur. “I'm not going to say we got it right, the community may have other ideas. We need some feedback as to what they think is fiscally responsible.”
Schreiber serves as a bedroom community for residents working at nearby Terrace Bay Pulp. About 130 locals work for Canadian Pacific Railway, which has maintained a rail yard as divisional and crew change point on the transcontinental line for more than 100 years. But the township still hasn't recovered from the 140 high-paying jobs lost when the Inmet copper and zinc mine closed in 1999.
For now, McArthur said future development inquiries will be handled by council and municipal staff.
“It's going to be hugely challenging.”
On the economic development front, the township dabbled in a garbage pelletizing scheme that didn't pan out and is now entertaining the idea of becoming a nuclear waste repository. An upcoming public information meeting is scheduled for June.
McArthur said he's comfortable with the idea after recently touring storage facilities at nuclear power plants in southern Ontario.
The township is taking advantage of up to $40,000 in program funding offered through the Nuclear Waste Management Organization for a community “visioning exercise.”
“Out of that I'm hopeful we can see some direction where people can be comfortable moving forward with any economic opportunity.”