OPINION: They ran out of gas

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It was the best they could do.

Under the circumstances.

We’re talking about Chatham-Kent council approving a tax increase of 5.53 per cent for 2024.

Council began their deliberations last week staring at a 6.57-per-cent hike as proposed by administration.

The civil servants handed councillors nearly 1,600 pages in budget reports to sift through between the draft capital budget and the draft budget.

Following three nights and a combined nearly 11 hours of deliberations, council passed the budget.

The first night, all 4.5 hours of it, saw 0.54 pulled off the proposed increase.

Night two, another 4.5-hour slog through the budgetary bog, saw a further 0.33 removed.

And the third night, which lasted one hour and 47 minutes, saw an additional 0.23 trimmed.

Councillors were clearly done at that point. Not only had they been through everyone’s initial motions and proposals, they revisited areas and found new options.

We have long suggested councillors look deeper and ask to break down expenditures in specific categories of their own interest. More savings could undoubtedly be found.

However, after what council collectively endured last week, we understand why they threw up their hands and voted.

So much of the agreed-upon cuts took place in a very short time period each night.

Consider this: Every element from the cuts the final night of deliberations came in an eight-minute span. They met for 107 minutes. The other 99 were essentially spent trying to explain to a handful of councillors that pulling $10.4 million from reserves and slapping it down against this year’s increase would leave council looking in 2025 for ways – and this is before the rest of the budget process – to make up that $10.4 million.

The starting point for 2025 by administration is based on what comprises the budget in 2024. You build on top. And any use of reserves is one-time coverage. It’s not there to build upon the next year.

Yet some councillors had a hard time seeing that.

In the end, those who watched were left rubbing their eyes.

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