Council is going into the weeds this week, looking for ways to manage a four-year budget, a first-ever endeavour for the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.
Ratepayers will be watching, hoping their elected officials break out their carving knives, post-U.S. Thanksgiving, and responsibly trim some of the hefty tax hikes that we all face.
The first time working on a four-year budgeting process may seem daunting to councillors, as they have never done it before. They’re used to short-term thinking, looking at mattes a year at a time. This time around administration has given them a proposed budget that sees a nearly 31 per cent increase over the next four years.
Inflation, they say, is to blame. Just look around us and they have a case, as other municipalities are looking at proposed double-digit increases for 2024.
Here, we face a proposed increase of 6.57 per cent for next year. Over the course of the next four years, the average is 7.82 per cent.
For the average homeowner, that works out to about $300 more in taxes each year.
Yes, inflation is impacting us all, and we have tightened our belts and reexamined our spending habits.
Can council do the same with the municipality? We shall see.
In past years, most budget deliberations were completed by the end of three nights of deliberations. As councillors nibbled on taxpayer-funded snacks and nibbled away at the edges of the budget, they often declared they were done after going through the budget package once.
This time around, they must not do that. This is a four-year plan, with steep tax hikes all around. Dig deeper and find additional savings.
What you should be looking for may not be in the overarching material delivered by administration.
Ask questions. How often does furniture need replacing? Computers? Vehicles? Who gets to drive municipal vehicle? Why? Do they also have a vehicle allowance, because if they do, that would be double dipping, something that most certainly should not be allowed.
Simply skimming the pages will not do this time around. You can all do better, and still maintain a longer-term view.
We, the ratepayers, will be watching.