Budget deliberations started much differently on Wednesday night, as Chatham-Kent Council quickly made its way through a number of items.
"It was a night with some good discussion," Ward 6 Councillor and Budget Committee Chair Brock McGregor said following the meeting.
"There were some motions from the floor that worked to reduce that tax impact in a responsible way. And I think we learned some more lessons about four-year budgeting and how to assess the impact of today's decisions on those subsequent years," he added.
On Tuesday, the average annual increase to the taxpayer for the next four years had been whittled down from 7.82 per cent to 7.33 per cent. With the increase for 2024 standing at 6.03 percent.
Two motions made by Ward 2 Councillor Anthony Ceccacci succeeded in driving the increase down slightly, not only for 2024 but for the three following years as well.
Talks about public health issues and the fire department's budget didn't result in any changes to the budget.
Business cases including the addition of just over $22,000 to extend the season of the municipality's splash pads and an increased base budget for all branches of the Chatham-Kent Public Library passed before the Budget Committee went into a closed session.
When the committee returned all of the motions discussed behind closed doors were passed.
Mayor Darrin Canniff then brought a motion to the table that could shave $500,000 from the 2024 budget, subject to the Police Services Board's approval. It would see the half million dollars returned to the municipality from any surplus money from 2023. The compromise allows for a reduction of the impact on taxpayers without affecting the police budget passed on Tuesday.
If Mayor Canniff's proposal passes with the Police Services Board, it would lower the 2024 tax increase to 5.76 per cent. The average annual tax increase across the entirety of the 2024-2027 budget would come down to 7.23 per cent, subject to change at each year's deliberation.
Several councillors expressed that they were pleasantly surprised that they'd managed to bring next year's tax hike to under 6 per cent.
"I think that there were a couple of creative motions, a couple things that really helped us get there and some really hard work by a bunch of committee members," McGregor said. "This has been and continues to be one of the more challenging budgets, with respect to inflationary pressures and inadequate funding from senior levels of government, and to be able to get that movement I think is a testament to some of that hard work and I think that so far we've done that in a responsible way."
Ward 1 Councillor Melissa Harrigan did call for a vote to pass the budget at the end of the night's deliberations, but it failed 8-9.
Council will meet again at 6 p.m. Thursday, November 30 for further discussions.