By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As predicted, inflation is hitting Chatham-Kent where it hurts with an initial 6.35-per-cent tax increase proposed for 2023.
Officials stress the lion’s share of the hike is directly related to skyrocketing costs across the board.
“About five per cent of the increase is inflation,” said budget committee chair Brock McGregor prior to the official release of the 2023 draft budget Wednesday.
“A fairly hefty portion of the proposed increase is based on that inflationary pressure, as well as our continued commitment to increase infrastructure funding,” McGregor told reporters at a media conference.
Based on the average residential assessment in Chatham-Kent, the hike would see a $200 tax increase on next year’s tax bill. The assessment is currently based on the 2016 provincial assessment of $173,000.
The biggest bite of the 6.35-per-cent hike comes from a 3.65-per-cent increase in infrastructure spending with 2.3 per cent of that based on inflation.
Chief Administrative Officer Michael Duben, working on his first budget with Chatham-Kent, said administrators held numerous meetings in order to provide council with some “leeway” in spending, while continuing to support infrastructure.
“This is not really a year for those like-to haves, this is a year for only the must haves,” Duben said. “This is where we have landed and now council must make decisions to get down to some lower number while at the same time trying to maintain infrastructure commitments.”
According to chief financial officer Gord Quinton, Chatham-Kent’s situation isn’t unique.
“All municipalities are facing the same infrastructure crunch across Ontario with the lack of funding coming from the federal and provincial governments,” Quinton explained, adding inflation can be likened to a decrease in purchasing power, with some costs, such as asphalt paving, rising as much as 25 per cent in the past year.
Quinton said the municipality needs to spend an estimated $124-million to maintain its current assets and infrastructure, but Chatham-Kent can only afford to spend about half that amount.
The proposed tax increase isn’t carved in stone. The budget committee will meet later this month to consider public input and deliberate as to how Chatham-Kent’s money can best be spent, shaving costs where they can.
Deliberations are set for Jan. 25 and Jan. 26 at the civic centre, beginning at 6 p.m.
Online community consultations will also be held taking place Jan. 18 from noon to 1 p.m. and Jan. 19 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Those with questions are invited to submit by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Budget & Performance Services, Municipality of Chatham-Kent, 315 King St. Chatham, ON N7M 5K8.
Written deputations of no more than three minutes in length are welcome each evening. They can be submitted to the clerk at email@example.com before noon each day.
Another tool will be used to guide this year’s budget. The municipality’s new budget book software is now online on the municipality’s website providing residents with an easy-to-understand outline of municipal spending.
All meetings will be broadcast live on YourTV, live streamed on the YourTV YouTube channel, as well as being in-person in council chambers.