Council approves 1.99% tax hike

Budget Chair Brock McGregor and Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire during the final night of budget deliberations on February 5, 2019. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

Fighting to keep it as low as they could, Chatham-Kent Council has approved a tax increase of 1.99 per cent for 2019.

The decision came during the third night of budget deliberations on Tuesday. The increase represents a financial impact of $57 per year for that average house assessed at $168,000.

Infrastructure was a major focus of this year’s budget including $550,000 allocated towards the third and final year of the bridge funding plan and a one per cent increase in the annual funding for infrastructure.

“I look at this as an ‘invest in CK’ budget,” said Mayor Darrin Canniff. “When you look at all the infrastructure we’re spending, the amount we’re putting into the community, we made nearly a $5 million incrementally into our community.”

This is the fifth year in a row that CK’s budget increase has been under the rate of inflation, which is something Canniff called a big accomplishment.

“It’s going to benefit our community,” said Canniff. “That to me is a real success story for council to say we’ve invested in a lot of things the taxpayers said we needed to invest in.”

Councillor Brock McGregor, who acted as budget chair, said one of the positives for him in this year’s budget was the fact that they were able to maintain service levels in the municipality.

“That’s something that we hear during the election, that people didn’t want to see service reductions,” said McGregor. “If we’re looking at budgets to get any lower you’d have to look at service reductions in many ways and I think there’s not an appetite right now for that in the community.”

Throughout the three nights of deliberations, members of council looked at all possible ways to keep the tax hike as low possible.

With the hope of slightly lowering the tax impact, Councillor Amy Finn put forth a motion on the final night to reduce the $550,000 that is going towards storm sewers, which had been approved on the first night of budget talks. After some back and forth discussion, the motion was ultimately unsuccessful.

McGregor said the debate and conversation is all part of a healthy budget process.

“All of the council, in my experience, takes the process really seriously. We’re very conscious that these are public dollars, these are hard-earned incomes,” said McGregor.

According to McGregor, engagement from residents was up this year during the budget process. He said hearing the feedback from the community had a big impact on helping council bring the budget to where it needed to be.