2.40% Tax Increase...Who voted for what?

·9 min read

Following four nights of deliberations, the Chatham-Kent municipal budget has been approved, with an overall tax increase of 2.40 percent for 2021.

However, those at the virtual table admitted it was a difficult balance to strike between necessary spending and keeping taxes as low as possible during a pandemic.

The increase amounts to an additional $71 per year for a house assessed at $173,000 in Chatham-Kent. Administration originally proposed a tax increase of 3.96 percent.

Similar to previous years, infrastructure featured prominently during deliberations, with 1.43 percent of the tax increase allocated to it.

Councillors closed off this year’s deliberations by approving a motion from Councillor Steve Pinsonneault that $300,000 be removed from the base budget at staff’s discretion as to which department, with no cuts to current services.

“We have a $334-million budget, and it should be easy enough to find $300,000 within our base budget,” he said. “Every year we have surpluses of a $1-million plus…which we turn around and use it in some spots, but mostly it goes into reserves again… I think this is a great way to knock some money off the budget without affecting any services.”

However, Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said it could be difficult to leave the decision to staff of where to cut funding, and a report would have to come back during a regular council meeting in 2021 on where the $300,000 in reductions were made.

“We have heard time and time again from several different council members they’re really concerned about changing a level of service. Whether that’s reducing the number of hours that our offices are open or changing how often we cut the grass. All of those are tied to staffing; all of those are tied to service levels,” explained Shropshire. “

Shropshire said the goal was to provide optimal service at the best feasible cost.

“This is likely, or arguably, the most challenging budget deliberations we’ve had in over 10 years,” he said. “In addition to our regular challenges, we have also needed to consider the uncertainties and economic consequences of COVID.”

The budget process, which was fully online, included community consultations and was ultimately passed with a 10-8 vote to accept the budget.Voting in favour were councillors Marjorie Crew, Joe Faas, Aaron Hall, Melissa Harrigan, Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, Clare Latimer, Brock McGregor, Carmen McGregor, Trevor Thompson and Mayor Darrin Canniff.

Opposed were councillors Mark Authier, Michael Bondy, Anthony Ceccacci, Amy Finn, Jamie McGrail, Steve Pinsonneault, Doug Sulman and John Wright.

After approval of Pinsonneault’s motion, Mayor Darrin Canniff successfully put forward a slightly altered motion. This motion offered some savings but ultimately provided staff with more time to find permanent cuts. Canniff’s motion requested that up to $300,000 come from the Strategic Development Reserve for 2021, with administration coming back in the fall with permanent savings found through service reviews.

“(Staff) will replace the $300,000 that comes out of reserves in 2021 with $300,000 in savings they found in the base budget through service reviews. We keep the same idea, but it flows, and administration has time to find those permanent cuts,” said Canniff.”

How did councillors vote on various motions over the two nights of deliberations? Following are the motions and votes.

Budget Committee Meeting - January 27, 2021

• Motion: “That the 2021 Police Budget requests on Tab 3 be adopted as presented with a net budget decrease of $399,637.”

Voting yes: Authier, Ceccacci, Crew, Faas, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Sulman, Thompson, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Not present: Bondy, Finn.

Motion Carried: 16-0.

• Motion: “That item #8 on Tab 4 for the incremental increase to Storm Sewer Life Cycle be reduced to $475,000 from $675,000.”

Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Ceccacci, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Sulman, Thompson, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: Crew, Faas, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer.

Not present: Finn.

Motion Carried: 13-4.

Budget Committee Meeting - January 28, 2021

• Motion: “That the Budget Committee direct administration to bring forward in the 2021 budget provisions:

1. Annual requirement for:

a. Settled labour contracts $142,659 (Tab 6, Item #55)

c. Net job evaluation/pay equity changes $256,682 (Tab 6, Item #59)

d. Net Progression increases per contracts $9,726 (Tab 6, Item #60)

2. Employment & Labour Relations reserve one-time labour related authorizations ($1,081,121).”

Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Crew, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Thompson, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: Ceccacci, Kirkwood-Whyte, Sulman.

Motion Carried: 15-3.

• Motion: “That the Budget Committee direct administration to bring forward in the 2021 budget provisions:

1. Annual requirement for:

b) Unsettled labour contracts $2,373,847 (Tab 6, Items #56, #57)”

Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Latimer, McGrail, C. McGregor, Wright,

Voting no: Ceccacci, Kirkwood-Whyte, Sulman, Thompson.

Conflict: Crew, B. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Mayor Canniff.

Motion Carried: 10-4.

• Motion: “That item #14 on Tab 5 for winter control salt materials be reduced from $125,000 to $62,500 for this year and the next 3 years.”

Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Finn, Hall, McGrail, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Sulman, Thompson, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: Faas, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, B. McGregor.

Motion Carried: 13-5.

• Motion: “That item #16 on Tab 5 for the incremental $162,400 increases for future funding of community needs be removed from this year’s budget. Further, that as a result, these incremental increases for years six through 10 be deferred to the 2022 budget and beyond.”

Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Sulman, Thompson, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: Faas.

Motion Carried: 17-1.

• Motion: “That item #17 on Tab 5 for the incremental $162,400 increases for future funding of facility needs be removed from this year’s budget. Further, that as a result, these incremental increases for years 6 through 10 be deferred to the 2022 budget and beyond.”

Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, McGrail, Pinsonneault, Sulman, Thompson, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: Faas, Latimer, B. McGregor, C. McGregor.

Motion Carried: 14-4.

• Motion: “That item #24 on Tab 6 be increased from a one-time amount of ($300,000) to a one-time amount of ($1,000,000).”

Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Thompson, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: Sulman.

Motion Carried: 17-1.

• Motion: “That item #70 on Tab 6 in the amount of $75,000 for Tree Replacement program be changed to a two year pilot program in the amount of $150,000 and funded from the Emerald Ash Borer reserve. Further, that this base budget request be considered again as part of the 2023 budget process.”

Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Sulman, Thompson, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: C. McGregor.

Motion Carried: 17-1.

• Motion: “That item #69 on Tab 6 in the amount of $200,000 to increase support for affordable housing projects be removed from this year’s budget.”

Voting yes: Bondy, Pinsonneault, Sulman, Thompson.

Voting no: Authier, Ceccacci, Crew, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Mayor Canniff.

Not present: Wright.

Motion Defeated: 4-13.

• Motion: “That item #75 on Tab 6 in the amount of ($41,586) for the discontinuance of the seasonal bus service be changed to continue the service on Saturdays, holiday weekends (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and July 1st and July 3rd for a period of 1 year period with a net cost of $19,748 and funded from OW Corporate Initiatives reserve starting on Victoria Day and ending Labour Day.”

Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Thompson, Wright.

Voting no: Sulman, Mayor Canniff.

Motion Carried: 16-2.

Budget Committee Meeting - February 2, 2021

• Motion: “Item #8 on Tab 4 for the incremental increase of $475,000 for Storm Sewer Lifecycle be removed from this year’s budget.

2. Further, a minimum amount of $300,000 be allocated to Storm Sewer Lifecycle from the Lifecycle Asset Management Plan amount totaling $1,624,000 indicated on line Item #9.”

The Budget Committee requested that the recommendations be voted on separately.

Recommendation #1:Voting yes: Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Sulman, Thompson, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: Authier, Crew, Faas, Harrigan, Latimer, B. McGregor.

Motion Carried: 12-6.

Recommendation #2: Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Sulman, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: Latimer, Pinsonneault, Thompson.

Motion Carried: 15-3.

• Motion: “That items #67 and #68 on Tab 6 in the amount of $99,480 and $1,739 respectively for the Case Manager Housing Services position be removed from this year’s budget.”

Voting yes: Bondy, Pinsonneault, Thompson, Wright.

Voting no: Authier, Ceccacci, Crew, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Mayor Canniff.

Not Present: Sulman.

Motion Defeated: 4-13.

• Motion: “That one-time funding in the amount of $184,000 be made available from the Together CK reserve regarding 2020 surpluses for these grants and be used to reduce this year’s budgeted tax increase.”

Voting yes: Bondy, Finn, Latimer, Sulman, Wright.

Voting no: Authier, Ceccacci, Crew, Faas, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Thompson, Mayor Canniff.

Motion Defeated: 5-13.

• Motion: “That item #72 on Tab 6 be changed to a 2 year supplementary item in the total amount of $200,000 for Physician Recruitment and funded from the Strategic Development Reserve.”

Voting yes: Authier, Bondy, Crew, Finn, Hall, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Sulman, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: Ceccacci, Faas, Thompson.

Conflict: Harrigan.

Motion Carried: 14-3.

• Motion: “That item #63 on Tab 6 for proposed Lifecycle Inflation be reduced from 1.5% inflation or $887,100 to 1.0% inflation or $591,400.”

Voting yes: Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Sulman, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Voting no: Authier, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, McGrail, B. McGregor, Thompson.

Motion Carried: 10-8.

• Motion: “That one-time funding in the amount of $3,000,000 be made available from the OW Future Economic Downturn Reserve to be used to reduce this year’s budget tax increase.”

Voting yes: Bondy, Sulman,.

Voting no: Authier, Ceccacci, Crew, Faas, Finn, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, Latimer, McGrail, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Thompson, Wright, Mayor Canniff.

Motion Defeated: 2-16.

• Motion: “That the Budget Committee adopt the 2021 Budget as amended throughout the evenings of January 27th, January 28th and February 2nd of 2021 with a tax impact of 2.58% and adjourn budget deliberations.”

Voting yes: Crew, Faas, Hall, Harrigan, Latimer, B. McGregor, C. McGregor, Mayor Canniff.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News