Municipality provides some immediate financial relief

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By Jenna Cocullo

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent voted at Monday night’s council meeting to push back the property tax due date for residents and businesses.
The 2020 interim tax levy date had moved from May 1 to July 10 and late payment charges from April 1 to July 10.

All payment due dates for business licences, dog tag fees, loan agreements, CIP agreements and accounts receivable will now be June 30. This doesn’t include Provincial Offences Act charges, legal charges or building permit fees.
In addition, the Public Utilities Commission has decided to lower water rates for residents.
Chief financial officer Gord Quinton said the deferral is there to address the urgent needs of residents and business which is mainly a cash flow problem at the moment, and their response is in line with what other municipalities are doing across the province.
“Some (municipalities) did react too quickly and I would say overreacted and are now in desperate need of cash flow funding from banks and those banks are coming back and saying that they can’t do it,” Quinton said. “So what we’ve done is taken a measured approach.”
According to the financial departments report, the deferrals are expected to cost the municipality up to $100,000 in lost revenue.
“Overall, if “normal” returns in the next 90 days, we are now estimating the additional cost and loss of revenue to Chatham-Kent to be in the $2 million to $5 million range. Impacts to bank interest, transit, cultural facilities, libraries, and recreation facilities and sports field revenues will be significant,” states the report.
Gail Hundt, president & CEO of Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce, said this was a good first step on the municipality’s part that acknowledging there are businesses, and residents, in pain who need immediate support.
“They are doing everything they can, with their hands tied to some degree,” Hundt said, noting that municipalities are legally not allowed to run deficits. “This will provide some reprieve and there will be more opportunity down the pipeline.”
Stuart McFadden, director of C-K Economic Development Services, said he believes this is a great first step to help out businesses on the front end, as the majority of the “heavy lifting” needs to be done by the provincial and federal government.
Hundt said that small businesses will be feeling the impact the most, as many provincial and federal programs, such as 75 per cent of paid wages for employees and subsidized rent, do not apply to smaller businesses that have less employable hours.
“The smallest non-essential businesses are suffering and in the most pain in many ways because most programs are not attainable because of the way they paid staff or the levels they paid,” she explained.

Hundt said the chamber is surveying their members to better identify their needs. As the pandemic goes on she believes there will be a need for the municipality and key players to find creative solutions to assist small and home-based businesses.
“Doors have closed for some businesses who have no second resources. So we need to find a new way to open more doors to get their products out.”
McFadden is also reminding businesses to visit the InvestCK website if they need more assistance with navigating government programs, finding resources or have any questions.
“They’re two keystrokes away from all the information; it’s all there. And our team is still available talking to people every day.”

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