Chatham-Kent budget chair Brock McGregor stated the obvious when he kicked off municipality’s budget process by calling 2020 a challenging year.

The 2021 budget was tabled during an online meeting on Wednesday night, with a proposed increase to property taxes of just under four percent (3.96%).

Chatham-Kent Chief Financial Officer Gord Quinton says there are a number of reasons why single-tier municipalities, like Chatham-Kent, are experiencing property tax increases that are greater than the rate of inflation.

Quinton said one is the digitization of the economy. Instead of going to a store down the street—which pays a commercial property tax, people instead shop online at places like Amazon, which doesn’t pay Chatham-Kent any tax.

With just over $166 million sitting in reserves, it seems like dipping into that money would be a good idea to help reduce the tax burden for taxpayers.

Chatham councillor Michael Bondy raised the possibility during the opening night of deliberations about using money from reserves to help provide taxpayers with some relief.

“If reserves are there and we’re going to raise taxes why don’t we use the reserve money to offset the tax increase,” Bondy asked.

Quinton says he understands savings are for a rainy day and it’s raining right now, but there are issues using reserves, because the majority of reserves are already dedicated to specific projects and purposes.

Quinton said there is strategic reserves for things that comes up mid-year after the budget is approved.

The opening night is to introduce the budget with a presentation. No motions are brought forward.

The next steps include online public input question and answer sessions on Facebook from Jan. 19-21.

Budget committee deliberations will take place on Jan. 27 and 28, as well as Feb. 2. If more time is needed time has been set aside on Feb. 3 and 4.

Property tax provides just over half of Chatham-Kent’s revenue for its budget.