The Chatham-Kent Civic Centre is seen in this September 15, 2014 file photo. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)The Chatham-Kent Civic Centre. (File photo)

Slow start to CK budget deliberations

The change from a single-year budget to a multi-year budget caused plenty of questions during the first night of Chatham-Kent's budget deliberations.

Ward 6 Councillor and Budget Committee Chair Brock McGregor called the change a challenge.

"I think it's really a positive move to help the budget committee and council understand the long-term impact of our decision-making and really provide some expectation to the community about what future tax changes will look like," McGregor said. He added that it's worked successfully in other communities, and thinks it's a step in the right direction for Chatham-Kent.

At the start of the night, the 2024-2027 draft budget came in with an average annual increase of 7.82 per cent.

2024-2027 draft budget breakdown (Image from the Chatham-Kent Draft Budget 2024-2027)2024-2027 draft budget breakdown (Image from the Chatham-Kent Draft Budget 2024-2027)

Chief Financial Officer Gord Quinton said that the increase "includes significant investments in Chatham-Kent's infrastructure, with a proposed tax increase of 2.95 per cent directed towards our Asset Management Plan."

The budget deliberations began with infrastructure and the draft police budget. "We felt that having police and infrastructure on night one was a good opportunity to get into some of the larger items," McGregor explained.

He admitted that the windfall that Toronto recently received from the province was top of mind when agreeing to a motion that brought the inflation premium for infrastructure projects from 2.3 per cent down to 1 per cent across all four years. Shaving more than $940,000 from the 2024 budget and over $1 million from each of the subsequent three years.

McGregor said he's hopeful that Chatham-Kent could receive some additional funding from the higher levels of government. "We've been really good stewards of increasing funding towards local infrastructure and that's largely happened on the backs of local property taxpayers," he said.

"And when we look at a community like Toronto that has infrastructure they've neglected for years and years and years, and they're essentially getting bailed out, we're hoping that our good work will get recognized. That we'll see some positive changes in funding levels so that local taxpayers aren't bearing the full burden of infrastructure," he added.

The tax increase also included the Chatham-Kent Police Services budget, which for 2024 comes close to $36 million.

CK council ultimately passed the four-year police budget, as presented to them, with a vote of 15-1.

Police Chief Gary Conn said that a majority of the money will be put towards hiring staff, in an effort to change the current policing model in Chatham-Kent from reactive to proactive. Something that citizens of the region support, according to a recent police survey.

By the end of Tuesday night's meeting, the 2024 increase for Chatham-Kent taxpayers stood at 6.03 per cent, with a four-year average of 7.33 per cent.

Deliberations will continue at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

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