Chatham Civic Centre. (Municipality of Chatham-Kent)Chatham Civic Centre. (Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Council adds to proposed municipal budget on night two of deliberations

Chatham-Kent's proposed tax hike went up by 0.03 per cent after the second night of budget deliberations.

The proposed increase now sits at 5.61 per cent, up from 5.58 per cent or about a $176 increase on this year's average property tax bill.

Several topics came up in the discussion Tuesday night, such as the issues related to emergency and affordable housing in Chatham-Kent.

Councillors were provided with an update on the emergency shelter, which opened up on Murray Street last June.

A total of $1.9 million will be transferred from reserves to run the shelter for 2023.

Ward 3 Councillor Steve Pinsonneault expressed concern over the shelter being too high of quality.

“I don’t think there’s anyone arguing that you do need a homeless shelter," said Pinsonneault. "I just want to make sure we don’t end up with a Cadillac, because, honestly, you draw people into our area. We don’t have to have the best (shelter), we just have to have one.”

Director of Employment and Social Services Polly Smith said it was quite the opposite, adding that the services and facilities at Victoria Park Place are quite basic.

"They're providing basic needs," said Smith. "People are not attracted from other communities, that is a bit of a myth."

Ward 4 Councillor Aaron Hall entered a successful motion to allocate an additional $130,000 to the affordable housing reserve.

"The long-term solution to homelessness is building affordable housing,” said Mayor Darrin Canniff. "We know we have to spend more on affordable housing. I look at this as this is a $130,000 investment."

Also on Tuesday, councillors also allocated $38,000 to upgrade WiFi service at Riverview Gardens to meet staffing and IT needs.

This item came from a list that municipal staff didn't recommend due to high inflation and other challenging financial implications this year.

“Perhaps we chose a poor title in 'not recommended,'" said Chief Financial Officer Gord Quinton. "They are things we know council feels passionate about, but we really feel it should be council's decision to add them to the budget."

Other items on the list included catering council meals, arena WiFi managed services, funding for gravel road study, Chatham pump track maintenance, and more.

Budget talks resume Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Thursday set aside if needed.

All meetings will be live-streamed on the YourTV Chatham-Kent YouTube page.

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