Chatham-Kent Council Chambers. Photo credit: Morena McDonald, CKXS News.

Chatham-Kent property owners will be looking at higher taxes over the next few years.

Chatham-Kent administration has presented its 2024-2027 fiscal blueprint to council on the opening night of a new multi-year budget process with an overall annual proposed increase of 7.82%. The proposed increase for 2024 would work out to 6.57%.

The three biggest reasons outlined for the proposed tax increase include; inflationary pressures (4%,) increased infrastructure spending (1.5%,) and the Chatham-Kent Police Service budget (0.8%.)

Chatham-Kent is not alone in dealing with inflationary issues and downloading from the province. Chatham-Kent chief administrative officer Michael Duben said he foresees many Ontario cities and municipalities looking at possible double-digit increases.

Budget chair Brock McGregor said inflation is a major driver of costs. Another big factor in increased costs in Chatham-Kent is things the province has downloaded to municipalities.

“What we’ve seen trending for the past few years is municipalities taking on more of a role in areas that were previously funded by the provincial government,” McGregor said, pointing to areas Chatham-Kent now has to fund, such as housing and homelessness, and mental health in the community.

This is the first time Chatham-Kent has used a multi-year budget approach. A multi-year budget will be presented every four years and reviewed and updated annually.

Chatham-Kent’s chief financial officer/treasurer Gord Quinton said although the push for a multi-year budget was brought on by a council motion, he is a big proponent of multi-year budgets,

He notes that many other municipalities have used multi-year budgets, such as London and Guelph.

“This is a best practice and this is where strategic-thinking councils are going to,” Quinton said.

Multi-year budgets are billed as better for the alignment of longer-term goals and objectives with longer-term funding plans. The format is also said to lead to greater certainty provided to taxpayers/residents about the future direction of taxes and the timing of implementation of the council-approved Strategic Plan.

The police budget presented by the police services board, will be presented at a special meeting of council scheduled for November 21.

The public can have their say on the budget in a pair of virtual online sessions being held on Chatham-Kent’s Facebook Live feed on Wednesday, November 22 from noon to 1 p.m. and Thursday, November 23 at 7 to 8 p.m.

Budget deliberations will take place on Nov. 28, Nov. 29, and Nov. 30, every night starting at 6 p.m. If more time is needed, the Dec. 5th and 6th have also been set aside.