C-K budget chair reflects on first 4-year effort

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Stick a fork in them. They were done.

That’s the vibe from the chair of the budget committee of council when looking back on this year’s budget process and where councillors stood after nearly 11 hours of deliberating.

Brock McGregor, who has chaired the committee through six straight budgets to date, saw this one as being different. It was the first time the committee was looking at the budget process through a four-year window, for starters. Plus, a 6.57-per-cent increase was staring them in the face.

That was the starting point from what municipal administration proposed. After three nights of review, the committee was done, having brought the figure down to 5.53 per cent.

McGregor said they could have gone lower, and possibly would have had they not been able to immediately see the impact over the four years of the budget.

“I think that was really the intent of the four-year process. In the past, you could estimate the future impact, but now we have real-time numbers to see the impact,” he said.

When South Kent Coun. Ryan Doyle put forward a motion to pull from reserves to drop the 2024 tax increase to zero, administration was able to show to what degree that short-term thinking would impact the next three years of municipal spending and taxation.

“Councillors can now have a better understanding of the way the accounting works and how impactful it is to use one-time money to reduce the tax increase one year,” McGregor said.

He added he isn’t one to encourage capitulation early in the budget process, getting out after only a few hours of review.

“Even on Night Two when it looked like we stalled out, I made sure there were opportunities for people to bring stuff forward,” he said. “We gave as much space and breadth to the process as people needed.”

After two nights and nine hours of effort, it appeared the committee had exhausted all approaches they were willing to take to trim the budget. However, a vote to approve the budget fell short.

McGregor thinks the extra day of work paid off, as more cuts were made on the third, and ultimately final, night of deliberations.

“Some people scrambled for different approaches when the budget didn’t pass initially,” he said.

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