Chatham-Kent council wrapped up its deliberations on the second night, passing this year's budget with a 1.96-per-cent tax hike on Thursday.
In recent years, the budget would usually go into a second week, given the number of hot-button potential cuts, either to services or facilities, on the agenda.
However, that was avoided this time, said Chatham Coun. Derek Robertson, budget chair.
“It's unique for us to be completed in two nights,” he said, as he thanked the budget committee and municipal staff for their work.
There was discussion concerning a proposed $75,000 grant for the Ridgetown Community Sports Field, put forth by East Kent Coun. David VanDamme.
The money would have come from the strategic reserve. However, council voted the motion down, noting that a decision needs to be made concerning the future of the school at the site.
Chatham Coun. Doug Sulman entered an unsuccessful motion to apply $750,000 to the one-per-cent infrastructure increase — included in the overall hike — from the building reserve.
“It's an opportunity to get the increase down,” he said.
However, Thomas Kelly advised council that money needs to be set aside in that reserve, mentioning the rehabilitative work needed in the Civic Centre.
The committee passed the budget 13-5. Voting in favour were Mayor Randy Hope, councillors Bryon Fluker, Trevor Thompson, Frank Vercouteren, Joe Faas, Leon Leclair, Carmen McGregor, Jeff Wesley, Darrin Canniff, Brock McGregor, Bob Myers, Robertson and VanDamme.
Against were councillors Mark Authier, Karen Herman, Steve Pinsonneault, Michael Bondy and Sulman.
Hope credited those involved in the budget for making it possible.
“I think everybody felt totally engaged in this process,” he said. “The list (of cuts) could have been bigger and much more damaging, but I think the administration team did an excellent job at doing their homework and making sure we were presenting a budget that was accommodating our general public, and most importantly, improving our services and not cutting services.”
Council received the draft budget in January. Residents had the opportunity to provide input at open houses, which were sparsely attended, as well as online through the Citizen Budget tool.
In 2016, the municipality had $294.2 million in revenue, of which half was funded by the municipal tax base.
The increase works out to a $54 annual impact on a home assessed at $161,300.
“I think we made a wise decision tonight to not buy down (the increase) one time,” Robertson said. “Had we done that, it would've made the budgeting process in future years difficult.
“And let's be really clear, the budgeting process in future years will be difficult. We don't need to add additional strain.”