Budget process begins with proposed 4.74% tax hike

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Given the infrastructure needs and inflationary pressures that have worsened during the ongoing pandemic, councilors in Chatham-Kent initially received a proposal for a 4.74% tax increase.

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The opening night of the budget discussion on January 12 featured insights from various department heads, who provided insight into the realities facing the municipality this year.

The proposed tax hike is not the final figure, and the public will have an opportunity to comment before the council begins deliberations later this month.

Gord Quinton, the municipality’s chief financial officer, said COVID-19 continues to pose challenges for Chatham-Kent, as well as the current gas leak situation in Wheatley which has progressed but has yet to be resolved.

He said these key issues have “stretched every division” as staff continue to work with each other, as well as with the community.

“We’re a resilient community, and so we’re bringing you a truly sustainable budget tonight that properly funds what needs to be funded,” he said.

Inflation is set at 2.93% to cover the increase in current services and at 1.48% to cover infrastructure inflation.

Chatham-Kent’s total revenue split for 2021 was just under $340 million.

Here are some of the highlights that staff highlighted in this year’s proposed budget:

  • Replace aging infrastructure, major bridges and upgrade storm sewers;
  • Improve municipal facilities;
  • Maintain and provide existing community services;
  • Address the disposal of assets;
  • Increase resident care at Riverview Gardens to four hours of care;
  • Support community policing and outreach while funding the Mandated Enhanced 911 Project that will allow dispatchers to automatically identify caller location;
  • Support and mitigate at-risk areas of the municipality and address shoreline issues; and
  • Invest in technology to improve efficiency and reduce operational risk.

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Many of the new staffing positions, particularly at Riverview Gardens, are covered by other funding sources, Quinton added.

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance also gave a delegation, seeking a one-time contribution of $500,000 for a 10-bed residential withdrawal management unit at the hospital.

However, this contribution would be contingent on operational funding approval from Ontario Health.

Com. Brock McGregor, Budget Chair, encouraged residents to get involved and provide feedback throughout the process.

“It’s really the role of the board, as we go into budget deliberations as a budget committee, to take ownership of the budget and do this hard work to finalize what will guide the priorities for next year,” did he declare.

Two opportunities to provide public comment have been set for January 19 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and January 20 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Staff will provide a brief budget summary at the start of each of these community consultation meetings.

These two meetings will be broadcast live on the Municipality of Chatham-Kent’s Facebook feed.

The municipality has scheduled budget committee deliberations for Jan. 26, Jan. 27, and Feb. 1 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day. February 2 and 3 have also been canceled if necessary.

Staff will accept written deputations of up to five minutes each evening. Submissions should be sent to [email protected] by 3 p.m. each day.

Comments can also be mailed to Budget & Performance Services, Municipality of Chatham-Kent, 315 King St. W., PO Box 640, Chatham, Ont., N7M 5K8, or submitted by phone at 519-360-1998 .

All budget meetings will be broadcast by YourTV and streamed live on the YourTV Chatham-Kent YouTube page.

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