Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Council to consider 0% budget options

Municipality of Chatham-Kent Council will consider options to achieve a 0% tax increase for the upcoming 2021 budget.

At their August 10, 2020 electronic meeting, Council approved recommendations from staff to further explore the idea, which could bring permanent tax savings to the taxpayers of Chatham-Kent.

Council directed staff to perform further analysis of various service delivery options to both “efficiently provide quality core services” and to achieve a 2021 budget target of 0%.

Detailed reports are set to be brought to Council on or prior to the November 9, 2020 Council meeting for Council’s final approval ahead of the 2021 budget deliberations.

“Council has been advised that the 2020 projected deficit due to COVID-19, prior to any upper level support funding, is approximately $2-million to $5-million,” said Gord Quinton, chief financial officer, in a report.

“At the June 29 Council meeting, Council directed administration to bring forward a 2021 budget at the inflation rate plus the requirements for the asset management plan, and to bring options on getting to a zero percent budget increase.”

Quinton said his report provides a list of options for Council to consider if it desires to achieve a 0% budget increase for 2021.

“In addition, the majority of the items recommended are permanent changes that will bring permanent tax savings to taxpayers,” Quinton added.

The annual BMA study, and many past master plans and studies, consistently point to Chatham-Kent as being an efficiently run organization based on what it is asked to do, Quinton said.

“However, it is the opinion of the executive management team that in some areas we are providing services based on past practices and are in some cases, over delivering to the actual needs of residents and providing non-core municipal services,” he said.

“Chatham-Kent will soon approach its 25th anniversary. Many of the service levels offered to residents are based on outdated requirements and technologies, or simply legacy services that have no requirement to be provided.”

Here is the list of options included in Quinton’s report, which could be implemented over the 2021 and 2022 budget cycles:

Quinton said some of the items require a one-time investment in order to achieve the annual operating savings.

“Pay back analysis will be completed in the reports and the one time funding could be funded either from existing reserves or by self financing with the future saving delaying the tax savings, Quinton said.

“Administration will individually make recommendations that make the most sense for the service and costs involved. The items on the list are not the exhaustive list of items being reviewed by administration. As part of the Council strategic priorities, the growth plan, labour relations, tax policy and ongoing efficiencies, there are a variety of other significant
reports coming to Council over the next several months.”

Quinton said recognizing that there are several items listed “that will have significant localized impact” that will need public consultation to explain the rationale, in this COVID-19 environment, staff is recommending moving quickly to consultation where applicable and bringing final recommendations for Council to consider and make decisions on, well ahead of the 2021 budget deliberation period.

“This is a time for lasting decisions and cannot be decided at the last moment during budget deliberations,” Quinton said.

“There may be a necessity to add additional council meetings in the fall to schedule reports on each item. It is recommended that all reports come to Council on or before the November 9 Council meeting, ahead of EMT final 2021 budget formation.”

Quinton said his report does not address any efficiency opportunities related to Council composition, other divisions were identified for review, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were not include and some contracted services do not appear on the list, as they are already being
reviewed with timing of the next long term contract, such as: transit, garbage, recycling, etc.

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