Chatham-Kent councillors pass budget with 5.64% tax hike

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After some last-minute changes on the third night of deliberations, Chatham-Kent Councilors narrowly passed this year’s budget with a 5.64 per cent tax hike.

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Wednesday night was mostly a series of discussions about relatively minor cuts or additions.

However, the Budget Committee also approved a $4.5 million funding request from the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance for the rehabilitation of the Wallaceburg site, which will be paid over time and come from reserves.

In January, staffers proposed a 6.35 percent tax increase, citing inflation, provincial download and infrastructure as the main reasons for the increase.

The final 5.64 percent increase, passed by the Budget Committee by a margin of 9:8, represents an increase of about $178 over the average home.

Wallaceburg County. Aaron Hall submitted the successful, unanimously approved application for hospital funding.

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As part of this commitment, the community will pay $900,000 over five years, with the money coming from the Strategic Development Reserve.

County of South Kent. Trevor Thompson submitted a successful application to provide $100,000 toward recruiting and retaining physicians, also to be allocated from reserves.

Last year’s tax increase was 2.79 percent.

Chatham County. Brock McGregor, chair of the Budgets Committee, said it was a particularly challenging process this time as cost pressures were beyond the council’s control.

He said there has been a lot of discussion about the issues and good debate surrounding the horseshoe.

“I think we sharpened the pencil as best we could while respecting the need for investment,” McGregor said after the meeting.

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“I was happy to see that (the hike) went down the way it came. I think everyone would love to see those numbers lower across Ontario. But the reality is that inflation is quite high and we have seen provincial funding freezes and provincial funding cuts.”

West Kent County. Lauren Anderson submitted the motion to accept the budget, calling it a “really difficult year.” She added that delaying infrastructure issues is not an option.

County of South Kent. Anthony Ceccacci, who voted against the budget, would like more debate but acknowledged cuts in certain areas to reduce the tax impact could cause problems in the future.

“I was willing to delve a little more into some inflationary issues,” he said.

This story will be updated.

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