By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Chatham-Kent council is slowly chipping away at the proposed 3.93-per-cent tax hike for the 2021 budget.
On Thursday, the second round of budget deliberations took place resulting in cuts that have lowered the looming tax hike to 3.12 per cent.
While cuts were made all around, one area council was not willing to compromise on was affordable housing.
East Kent Coun. Steve Pinsonneault brought forward a motion to remove $200,000 from the affordable housing base budget.
“I honestly don’t see a whole lot of development going on this year due to the down year we had last year and this year starting out pretty much the same,” he said.
The motion did not pass. The funds will be used for future Requests for Proposals to develop affordable housing units.
“This is an investment in our community; this is not a cost,” Mayor Darrin Canniff said. “If we don’t make investments, look at the social costs that we incur as a society.”
Coun. Anthony Ceccacci successfully moved $75,000 for the tree replacement program to be changed to a two-year pilot project costing $150,000.
The funding would come from the Emerald Ash Borer reserve – a one time reserve created through a partnership with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for reforestation purposes.
Later on in the evening Ceccacci also saved the beach bus, which provides service to Erieau and Mitchell’s Bay, from being discontinued.
“This is a concern that I’ve heard from many members of our community,” noting that the program was deemed a success by municipal staff in the past.
“When we have a service like this, quantifying it with ridership is somewhat challenging because there’s many businesses in these lakeside communities that really need the community to come out on a regular basis in the summertime.”
Council voted to reinstate the service for one year at a cost of $19,748. The service will run from Victoria Day to Labour Day every Saturday. On holiday weekends, it will run from Saturday to Monday and service will also be available on July 1 and July 3.
The next budget deliberations are set for Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Any decisions made to date are not final or binding until council officially passes the budget.