C-K budget passes at 5.53%

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Following another 107 minutes of deliberations Thursday night, and one swing for the fences to kill the tax increase for next year, Chatham-Kent council approved the 2024 budget with a tax hike of 5.53 per cent.

With the Strong Mayor Powers, council technically ended its review of the budget, but Mayor Darrin Canniff said there’d be no veto forthcoming.

After three nights, council shaved 1.04 per cent off the proposed 6.57 per cent increase.

Following the first night, the figure had dipped to 6.03 per cent. The second night dropped it to 5.76 per cent. Each of those nights saw the budget committee of council spend four and a half hours debating, questioning and cutting.

On Thursday, they were clearly tired after another hour and 47 minutes.

The biggest attempt for cuts on the night came from South Kent Coun. Ryan Doyle.

He moved to yank $10.4 million out of municipal reserves and slap it down to cut the 2024 tax increase to zero.

“I’m just thinking about the people who are hurting at home. If we end up taxing people to the point we move more people into homelessness…we’re going to have a bigger issue than we have right now.”

Mayor Darrin Canniff started the night off by putting forward a trio of proposed shifts; covering $25,000 of the 2024 budget with additional revenues from Cascades Casino, adding $50,000 by effectively delaying the hiring of new staff, and reducing the increase to asset management funding by half a percentage point.

All three were approved, and they ultimately made up the entirety of the changes to the 2024 tax increase from Thursday’s gathering.

The three votes took place in a span of less than eight minutes and were completed before the meeting was 20 minutes old.

However, another 127 minutes lay ahead.

That’s when Doyle stepped up and took his swing.

West Kent Coun. Lauren Anderson said such a proposal to zero the tax hike by dipping into reserves would make the 2025 budget process daunting.

“If we take this down to zero, in 2025, they’re going to be coming at us at 14 per cent,” she said of administration. “This is not thinking about long-term anything.”

Melissa Harrigan, who also represents West Kent, said she looks at municipal reserves as saving for the future for big needs.

“We have all these different projects we know are in the future. If we don’t save appropriately for these projects, they are going to hit us very hard,” she said.

Doyle’s motion failed 12-3.

He tried to shave more funds from asset management increases, but that motion was also unsuccessful.

After that, council wrapped up its deliberations.

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