Council balances investment, prudency to achieve 2.97 per cent budget increase

Following five community open houses and three Council Budget Committee meetings, on Thursday, January 30 Chatham-Kent Council passed the 2020 municipal budget.

The 2.97% budget increase is comprised of a 2.25% infrastructure increase, a provincial download of 1.22% and a net decrease in the municipal levy of 0.5%. The 2020 budget included an increased investment of $4,268,000 for infrastructure, a new $280,000 investment to support affordable housing, debt reduction and sustainable investments in many services.

The increase after the provincial download is under the 2019 Canada inflation rate of 1.9%. The overall budget increase represents a tax impact of approximately $86 on an average home assessment of $171,000.

After the recommendations were presented to Council by municipal administration on January 15, Council and administration held Community Open Houses to gather input from citizens on the recommendations. Public meetings were held in Wallaceburg, Tilbury, Thamesville, Blenheim and Chatham. Comments were also received by e-mail.

The community meetings resulted in greater public education and understanding of the operations of the Municipality and were well attended with over 100 residents participating.

Budget Committee Chair Councillor Brock McGregor said shifts in provincial funding presented a challenge for staff and council.

"We realize that provincially-funded programs address needs in the community and effect citizens in a very real way so when that funding model changes, we need to find a way to adapt and still meet our responsibilities locally," he said. "I believe we have done that."

Mayor Darrin Canniff said the budget continues to steer the community in the proper direction. "As with any community we have issues we need to address, however, council understood that as much as we might like to deal with everything right now, that wouldn't be fiscally responsible. Every budget is an exercise in balancing needs and wants with our ability to pay."