By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
If taxes go up in Chatham-Kent, it won’t be to offset municipal COVID-19 expenses.
On Wednesday the provincial government announced more than $5.8 million to help with the incurred costs from the pandemic.
Chatham-Kent’s Mayor Darrin Canniff called the funding a “success story.”
“We’ve been working hard to find savings as we’re moving forward because we want to keep our tax rate competitive,” he said.
Canniff sits on the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario which has been lobbying the federal and provincial governments for funding because municipalities legally cannot run deficits.
In July, Premiere Doug Ford, while visiting Chatham-Kent, announced a “historic” agreement between the provincial and federal government to allocate $19 billion in COVID-19 relief funding. Seven billion went toward Ontario.
Cannff said the municipality has lost revenue from the Cascades Casino, which is budgeted to provide $1.6 million in revenue annually. That is an estimated loss of $133,300 for every month the casino was closed during the pandemic.
Revenue has also been lost due to the cancellation of conferences and events at the Bradley Centre, user fees from sports teams and the swimming pool, and hiring more staff for Riverview Gardens.
Any surplus of funding will go in the reserves for additional COVID-19 related costs. Chatham-Kent will only be eligible for phase 2 of funding if the $5.8 million does not cover all the pandemic related expenses.
“This really takes the weight off a lot of cities’ shoulders because everyone is experiencing different types of deficits,” Canniff said.
An additional $236,381 was provided to support transit operations. Revenues are down across the province due to low ridership during quarantine and expenses are up with additional cleaning and COVID-19 prevention protocols.