We here at The Chatham Voice have long preached fiscal responsibility when it comes to spending by the municipality. Well, beyond the municipality for that matter.
And look where we are. Ratepayers face a proposed 31-per-cent tax hike over the next four years.
That’s right, what administration has proposed is to see property taxes on the average C-K home leap by about $1,200 by the end of 2027. That’s nearly a one-third increase in your property taxes in just four years.
Why? Inflation, administration says, is to blame for a good chunk of it. It’s true. We have all seen how inflation is impacting us every time we fill our gas tank or shop for groceries. It hits everywhere.
What has not kept up during inflation, even in the pre-pandemic years, is funding from senior levels of government. The gas tax from the feds, for example, has been static for the past decade. Yet the cost of road infrastructure projects has doubled thanks to inflation.
No councillor who was around last decade when they sought zero-per-cent tax increases, or went cutting from the budget for the sake of cutting and trying to purchase votes, should be remotely smug when looking at the proposed budget numbers in the coming years.
Granted, no one had a crystal ball that could have predicted the pandemic, what happened in Wheatley or along Erie Shore Drive, but it would have been a smart move to at least attempt to plan for the unknown. A two-per-cent increase when council forced it down to zero would have had a cumulative impact from that point moving forward. It would have meant millions more in the budget already, meaning a lower bump this year and into the future.
Lifecycle funding to keep up our roads, bridges and buildings has been slaughtered in the budget process essentially for more than two decades, to the point only half of the maintenance work that should be carried out on roads annually is done.
Inflation may have put we ratepayers in a hole, but previous councils came armed with shovels to dig it deeper rather than put us in a place to climb out.
Short-term gain invariably leads to long-term pain.