Chatham-Kent homeowners to see a $185 increase in 2024 property taxes

The bad news -- the average homeowner will see a $185 increase in their 2024 property tax.

The good news -- there will be no cuts to municipal services as a result of the tax hike.

Chatham-Kent Council passed its first multi-year municipal budget during Thursday’s third night of deliberations. Council voted 10-5 to approve the increase of 5.53% for 2024.

The budget committee recommended a 6.57% increase for 2024 and an overall average increase of 7.82% over four years.

Council reduced the increase to 6.03% after the first night of deliberations and down to 5.76 percent after the second night.

A motion to pass the budget on Wednesday was defeated 9-8.

By passing the 2024 budget with a 5.53% increase, the four-year average increase was reduced to 7.17%, subject to change in deliberations in 2025, ‘06 and ‘07.

The $185 increase is based on the 2016 assessment of an average home valued at $173,000.

East Kent Ward 3’s John Wright was one of the five councillors who voted against accepting the budget Thursday.

Chatham Ward 6’s Alysson Storey and Michael Bondy, South Kent Ward 2’s Ryan Doyle, and North Kent Ward 4’s Rhonda Jubenville cast the other dissenting votes.

East Kent’s Steve Pinsonneault, who attended the first two nights of deliberations, missed Thursday’s session because of a previous engagement. Pinsonneault said he would have voted along with Wright against accepting the budget.

Wright said he wrote ‘five percent’ on a piece of paper before Tuesday’s opening night of deliberations.

“If it got down to five percent, I would have said yes,” Wright said of his vote.

But he admitted that despite his ‘no’ vote, Council exhausted their efforts to find additional reductions.

“There was no place for savings unless we started cutting services,” Wright said. “They left services and buildings alone; it wasn’t even brought up.”

Pinsonneault supported councillors who introduced motions to make cuts during the first two nights.

“I did support pretty well every cut that was put up there just for the reason you’ve got to save money,” Pinsonneault said. “Some of them went through, some didn’t.”

“I would have liked to have seen it come down a little more; it’s a litter higher than I wanted to see,” he said of the final 5.53% hike.

Pinsonneault, like Wright, was happy the budget was passed without any cuts to service.

“I did hear from a lot of people, ‘I don’t want to lose my library ... I don’t want to lose my arena,” Pinsonneault said.

“We’re just hoping inflation does drop next year, and this problem is not going to compound,” he added, as inflationary pressures made up 4% of the increase.

Wright and Pinsonneault were pleased to see a last-minute motion by South Kent Councillor Ryan Doyle to move nearly $10.5 million from transfers to reserves get soundly defeated 12-3.

“There is extra money put into reserves, but that extra money saves us,” Wright said.

He used the Wheatley explosion and the Talbot Trail collapse as two major unforeseen incidents that drained funds from reserves in recent years.

“A big tornado comes through Chatham-Kent; we could lose it all in one big disaster,” pointed out Wright.

Pinsonneault agreed.

“The problem using reserves is somewhere along the line, it has the potential of biting you in the butt,” he said.

The budget includes significant investments in the Chatham-Kent Police Services and municipal infrastructure.

Council approved the $36-million police budget on Tuesday for 2024, which accounts for 1.14% of the final increase.

The police’s four-year budget includes hiring 43 new officers between 2024 and 27.

Infrastructure accounts for another 3.11% of the budget, while the remaining increase provides investments in affordable housing, increased service levels for libraries, splash pads and sustainable municipal services.

“Municipalities across Ontario are battling inflation, and Chatham-Kent is no different,” Mayor Darrin Canniff said. “We passed a budget at 5.53%, despite 4.0% of that being inflationary costs.

“This budget includes no service cuts and features much-needed additions to our police force and infrastructure, which will put more police officers on the streets, help maintain and improve our extensive infrastructure, and help address the need for affordable housing in our community,” Canniff said.

The Mayor introduced successful motions on Thursday that included applying $25,000 in casino revenue to the base budget, allocating $50,000 related to the base budget by delaying the hiring of new staff and reducing the adjustment factor on asset management inflation from one percent to 0.5 percent for 2024.

Canniff also filed a successful Wednesday motion to apply $500,000 from the police budgetary surplus on a one-time basis for 2024 with the potential for supplemental amounts in future years, subject to police board approval.

Lauren Anderson of West Kent Ward 1 tabled the motion on Thursday to pass the budget at 5.53%.

Ward 1’s Melissa Harrigan, South Kent’s Trevor Thompson and Anthony Ceccacci, North Kent’s Jamie McGrail, Wallaceburg Ward 5’s Aaron Hall, Ward 6’s Conor Allin, Brock McGregor and Amy Finn, and Mayor Canniff voted in favour.

Wallaceburg’s Carmen McGregor, Chatham’s Marjorie Crew and Pinsonneault were absent Thursday and did not vote.

When Harrigan attempted to pass the budget on Wednesday’s second night, Wright, Pinsonneault, Ceccacci, Thompson, Doyle, Storey, Allin, Bondy and Jubenville opposed as the 9-8 vote sent deliberations to the third night.

Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News