Monday, March 8, 2021

Council approves 2020 budget with a 2.97% tax increase

After three days of deliberations, Chatham-Kent Council approved the 2020 budget, which includes a 2.97% tax impact.

The increase is down from the originally proposed 4.99% impact presented in the draft budget.

The budget was approved by a vote of 11-6.

Voting in favour were councillors Carmen McGregor, Aaron Hall, Joe Faas, Jamie McGrail, Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, Marjorie Crew, Amy Finn, Melissa Harrigan, Clare Latimer and Mayor Darrin Canniff.

Not in favour were councillors John Wright, Mark Authier, Anthony Ceccacci, Michael Bondy, Steve Pinsonneault and Doug Sulman. Not in attendance was Councillor Trevor Thompson.

“If there was no provincial download and if we decided not to spend anymore on infrastructure, if we’d have said that was enough, we’d have cut taxes by 0.5%,” Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said.

“We have 4.5-billion in assets replacement value and we’re 50% funded on keeping those assets up to date. So, it is very prudent in my mind, the 2.25% we’re spending on capital, that is one of the biggest we have in our community.”

Mayor Canniff added: “I’m very proud that the committee has come together and put together this budget and focused on the capital aspect of things to move forward, we need to have infrastructure.”

The increase will result in an additional $86 a year in property taxes, based on the average home assessment of $171,000.

As part of the approval, Council directed $2.26-million of the projected 2019 surplus to be transferred to the reserve for roadside assessment and allocated to the 2020 budget for one-time municipal roadside drainage assessment.

Council also approved a total of $13.4-million for the 2020 capital budget.

Gord Quintion, the chief financial officer for Chatham-Kent, said the keys to future financial success of the Municipality is increased assessment growth and “to start thinking about having growth pay for growth with development charges.

“So that new roads, storm sewers, storm management ponds are paid from the growth. That is part of our growth plan that is coming,” Quinton said.

Providing a breakdown of the 2.97% increase, Quinton said staff started with a 1.49% increase to taxes based on provincial downloading.

“With that cut to childcare, we’re now at 1.22% for provincial downloading and 1.75% for the rest of the Municipality,” he said. “But actually, we’re investing 2.25% into infrastructure, so it’s actually a savings of 0.50% for everything else.”

Some items dealt with on the third and final night of deliberations:

– Councillor Ceccacci entered a successful motion for a sandbag pilot project, at a total cost of $200,000. He also successfully moved to add $300,000 back to the capital budget for cemetery road improvements, with the funds coming from reserves.

– Councillor Crew entered a successful motion to take $700,000 from the winter control reserve to address a lengthy backlog on work orders.

– Councillor Latimer entered a successful motion to cut a $400,000 provision for wage benchmarking from the budget.

– Councillor Sulman entered a successful motion to reduce the winter control salt materials budget to $75,000. The original budget ask was $125,000.

– Councillor Wright entered a successful motion for $60,000 to go toward a crosswalk at Naahii Ridge elementary school in Ridgetown.

– A motion by Councillor Fass to put back $419,906 into the budget for the municipal cost share for childcare and early years expansion, which faced a 20% reduction from the province, was not approved.

– A motion by Councillor Pinsonneault to divide Phase 3 of the Round The River Trail project into two phases, was not approved.

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