Chatham Kent municipal offices (CTV Windsor/July 2018)

Chatham-Kent Council passed the 2021 municipal budget with a 2.4 per cent tax increase.

The budget was approved Wednesday following three online community consultations and four Council Budget Committee meetings.

It has a 1.43 per cent infrastructure increase, an increase in spending of 5.21 per cent or $3.1 million over 2020 infrastructure spending levels.

The 2021 budget included an increased investment in affordable housing, emergency housing, senior services, transit, debt reduction and sustainable investments in many services.

The overall budget increase represents a tax impact of approximately $71 on an average home assessment of $168,500.

Budget committee chair councillor Brock McGregor said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge for staff and Council.

“Obviously there were extraordinary challenges this year as well as a measure of uncertainty,” he said. “Through discussion among council members and staff, we were able to reach a compromise that will allow us to provide the services our citizens expect without sacrificing the future to do so.”

A significant portion of commercial and industrial properties can expect to see a reduction in their 2021 tax bill in excess of six per cent. This reduction is attributed to the reduction in the provincial education tax rate for commercial and industrial properties to assist with the provincial COVID-19 response.

Mayor Darrin Canniff the 2021 budget is the result of a lot of intense work by staff, Brock and the entire council.

“Every step of the way we were mindful of the fact that we needed to create a budget that not only took into account the events of 2020 but also that reality that we need to be able to operate in a way to help our community grow in the years to come.”

Prior to the draft budget being completed, the municipality launched a budget survey to seek input from the residents on areas of focus that were of importance to the public. The survey had over 1,300 responses, far exceeding any past survey completed on any budget.

After the recommendations were presented to council by municipal administration on January 13, administration held online consultations along with a question and answer forum on Let’s Talk CK to gather input from citizens on the recommendations. Comments were also received by e-mail.

The online consultations resulted in greater public education and understanding of the operations of the municipality and were well viewed with over 5,000 views.