When the budget committee of Chatham-Kent council met Jan. 26, in less than one hour, they removed $1.3 million in proposed tax increases.
An hour later, the unanimous passing of the police budget cut into that considerably.
At the end of the night, they’d managed to cull 0.77 per cent off the initial proposed tax increase of 6.35 per cent, dropping it to 5.58 per cent.
It is a start, but it might just be very close to the finish as well. We hope it is not.
South Kent Coun. Anthony Ceccacci proposed lowering the increases to lifecycle funding for infrastructure, due to lower than initially anticipated inflationary pressures.
Administration agreed it could work with the new number, and the committee voted 17-0 to trim.
Along came the police service. Chief Gary Conn spent 40 minutes detailing increased pressures in number of calls, massive geographical area patroled, etc., etc. To folks viewing the budget proceedings each year, it does get repetitive.
But he’s not wrong.
And Conn is also not wrong about delivering the lowest cost per capital policing in the province. The Chatham-Kent Police Service’s price per person for providing policing for 2022 sat at $284, 24-per-cent-below the provincial average. One quarter cheaper than the average, to us, sounds pretty darned good.
The budget committee passed the police budget unanimously as well. It’s hard to fault them, especially when the increase to the police budget is 3.3 per cent when the average for police budgets hikes this year elsewhere in the province is at 7.1 per cent. Again, it is hard to see fault when the increase is less than half what other police services, on average, are putting forward.
So, after the first day, it’s easy to see how the budget committee arrived to the 5.58 per cent point.
What will be difficult is shaving further. Inflationary pressures are still tangible throughout the budget. Operating costs were to be discussed Tuesday night.
Difficult, however, does not mean impossible. It is incumbent upon this council to dig deep to look for savings wherever possible. Perhaps equipment replacement gets delayed.
There is time to review, time to tighten the belt wherever possible.