Budget gets trimmed down to 3.12 percent

·3 min read

During the second night of municipal budget deliberations, Chatham-Kent councillors trimmed down a proposed tax hike.

While going through several staff recommendations, those at the table took a closer look at reserve allocations, as well as other amounts to help reduce the financial impact to ratepayers during a difficult year.

Ward 3 Councillor Steve Pinsonneault successfully cut a $162,400 incremental increase for the future funding of community needs as well as the same amount for the future funding of facility needs. For his latter motion, the incremental increases for years six through 10 will be deferred to the 2022 budget and beyond.

“Last year was a rainy day year for sure,” said Pinsonneault.

However, councillors voted down another motion from Pinsonneault requesting that a $200,000 base budget increase for affordable and supportive housing be removed.

“This is an investment in our community. This is not a cost,” said Mayor Darrin Canniff in opposition to the motion. “We need to do this.”

Ultimately, council decided not to make any changes to the 0.43 percent proposed for community investment.

The proposed tax hike, which isn’t finalized, currently sits at 3.12 percent. Administration initially proposed a 3.96 percent increase for 2021.

“We’ve heard very loud and clear from the community that there’s a real need to address the homelessness, affordability crisis and housing availability in Chatham-Kent,” said Budget Chair Brock McGregor. “We remain committed to adequate increases in funding for affordable housing.”

Marlee Robinson, a local volunteer, gave a deputation to council regarding the Ridgetown House Museum.

“Budget presentations have emphasized that we all must continue to do all we can to make Chatham-Kent appealing to current as well as new taxpayers,” stated Robinson.

She explained that comparatively, low housing costs are an attraction, but potential buyers look for much more than the price of housing -- they require a high quality of life. Libraries, art galleries, sports centres, tourist attractions, theatres, concert halls, parks, outdoor activities, heritage districts, volunteer opportunities, and ongoing education opportunities were among the examples Robinson used to describe a high quality of life.

“These may not be at the front of the line when you decide where our tax dollars should go, but if we do not support the quality of life segments of our community, we are wasting our money on other community costs,” said Robinson.

She further explained cultural, heritage, tourism and sports facilities are not “extras” or “add ons” or “just fun things” but rather vital integrated elements of our economic development.

“As you consider where our tax dollars will go in 2021, please keep in your minds all these and other vital heritage, tourism, culture and sports assets so necessary to our economic development and our quality of life,” said Robinson.

Deliberations continued on Tuesday, February 2, at 6 p.m. Tuesday’s meeting called motions from the floor. The meeting was streamed live on the Municipality of Chatham-Kent’s Facebook page as well as the YourTV Chatham-Kent YouTube channel.

Residents can submit written presentations of up to five minutes during deliberations. Submissions must be made by emailing ckfps@chatham-kent.ca before 3 p.m. each day.

Deputations on specific topics generating significant community interest will be scheduled and announced prior to the budget committee’s deliberations.

Comments can also be made by email to ckfps@chatham-kent.ca; by mail to Budget & Performance Services, Municipality of Chatham-Kent, 315 King St. W., P.O. Box 640, Chatham, Ont., N7M 5K8; or by phone at 519-360-1998 ext. 3100.

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