Day two of the 2018 budget deliberations at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre. January 31, 2018. (Photo by Sarah Cowan Blackburn News Chatham-Kent).

CK Council Approves 1.62% Tax Hike

After only two nights of deliberations, Chatham-Kent council has agreed on a 1.62% tax increase.

Council voted 14-4 to approve the 2018 budget Wednesday evening at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre.

Budget Chair Derek Robertson says the increase will mean about $46 extra per year for the average ratepayer. He says he is pleased with how quickly the deliberations went.

“We’ve had good data, we’ve had sound decision making, and we’ve had a council that’s remained engaged through the process,” says Robertson.

He says there were two main reasons for the tax increase.

“Both infrastructure and Bill 148 have a greater impact than 1.62%. At the end of the day, we have pressures and we have pressures that we need to manage in our infrastructure budget,” says Robertson. “Without infrastructure and the other provincial legislative pressures, we would have brought in a less than 0% budget.”

Robertson says council’s decision to cut a $216,452 request to add three full-time assistant public works supervisors did help to bring down the final number.  The need for these roles will be dealt with through the existing budget.

Although the budget has now been approved and finalized, it appears the municipality’s EMS still has some loose ends to tie up.

Council has decided to hold off on Councillor Mark Authier’s recommendation to fund 12 hours of ambulance service per day, which would cost approximately $1-million. Council has agreed, however, to pay $180,000 for the additional ambulance.

“I think the budget committee ultimately decided that it’s best that we gain more data, but we are taking an incremental step forward,” explains Robertson. “We’re dealing with a gap in service by including another ambulance into the fleet. I think we need to understand what the outcome and the impacts are of that new ambulance in the fleet.”

Councillor Brock McGregor pointed out that it is not about finding a solution, it is about finding the best solution.

According to Chatham-Kent Fire and EMS Assistant Chief Scott Ramey, Chatham-Kent currently has 12 ambulances. He says the extra ambulance will increase efficiency during shift changes and maintenance periods.