C-K council passes 5.64% tax hike

0
1084

Chatham-Kent council’s roller coaster budget ride this year hit the end line Wednesday night, delivering a 5.64-per-cent increase for 2023.

For two hours Wednesday night, the budget committee of council deliberated over additions and subtractions from the budget, and then it was as if they hit a wall, or capitulated.

Following a 15-minute break, the committee returned and passed the budget increase.

On Wednesday, the budget committee picked up right where it left off Tuesday night, down in the budgetary weeds reviewing items administration did not recommend to include in this year’s budget, but ones the previous council had asked to go into the budget.

And, as was the case Tuesday, the budget crept upward.

Nearly three hours of deliberations Tuesday resulted in a 0.03-per-cent increase to the budget, to 5.61 per cent from the 5.58 per cent starting point. And on Wednesday, the first two hours of deliberations yielded another 0.03-per-cent addition to the proposed hike.

Council added funding for a gravel roads study, cash for the maintenance of a new pump track for skateboarders and other wheeled enthusiasts, but the biggest item that increased the budget was the decision to add $120,000 towards increased operating costs in cemeteries, parks and trails, with $5,330 being earmarked for washrooms in active cemeteries.

This was a compromise, however, as the initial tally – one not recommended by administration but put forward by the previous council – was close to $250,000.

The gravel roads funding adds $50,000 to the budget for each year for the next decade.

The pump track – a 100-metre track of sorts – “it’s hills so kids can go up and down the hills,” according to Mayor Darrin Canniff – involved $9,000 in annual maintenance.

The committee went into detailed discussion with Rob Pollock, director of parks, recreation and cemeteries, over bringing elements back into the budget to increase spending for cemeteries, trails and parks.

Collectively, the committee appeared to not want to favour one area over another.

Pollock discussed how all facets have seen increased use since the start of the pandemic. In cemeteries, people use them as parks, coming to walk, walk their dogs or go for a run.

He added usage of trails and parks were up as well, and that they all were important due to the collective increase in usage.

“It’s hard to say which one is more important than the other. We’ve seen an increase in them all over the past two years. We don’t know for sure if the demand will stay,” he said.

The committee also identified the need to give the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance $4.5 million over five years to help rebuild the Wallaceburg hospital. That amount is half the public portion of funding the CKHA needs for the rebuild.

Indwell requested funding assistance for supportive housing to the tune of $9.69 million. Goprd Quinton, CFO for the municipality, said no funds are needed this year for the project, but the issue is slated to return to council March 6.

The funding for projects such as these emanate from a specific reserve that is used to provide cash towards various community projects.

Quinton said if the Indwell ask is approved, then cash for this reserve will be allocated through 2031.

“What we’d have to do in the meantime is we’ll have to internally borrow funds to be paid back from this commitment to make it work,” he said.

This did not impact the budget, however.

The committee did manage to make a decision to take away from the tax increase, to the tune of $100,000, when it pulled money in assessment growth funds and applied it against the tax increase.

When the committee suddenly decided it was done deliberating, West Kent Coun. Lauren Anderson moved the budget be accepted. The motion passed 9-8.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here