To help with long-term fiscal planning, Chatham-Kent councillors voted in favour of recommendations related to a multi-year budgeting process.
Staff had recommended developing a draft operating budget for 2024-27, with a starting position of a net tax impact at or below the estimated rate of inflation.
In addition, there will be a 1.5 per cent increase for the capital asset management plan, and a 0.5 per cent increase for the rate stabilization reserve.
The budget committee meeting schedule also was approved, with opening night set for Nov. 15, rather than a January date, as seen in previous years.
Steven Brown, budget and performance services director, told council Monday that multi-year budgeting is considered a best practice for municipalities.
“This approach encourages a focus on achieving longer-term plans, goals and objectives for funding plans, rather than a single year at a time,” he said.
According to a staff report, budget officials are monitoring:
- Significant changes in the consumer price index (CPI)
- Developing sustainable financial strategies for reserves, debt and infrastructure
- Senior government legislative changes
- Municipal cost of inflation pressures other than CPI
- Magnitude of services delivered by municipalities and those controllable locally versus mandated by senior governments, like public health
- Competitive tax policies.
Potential drawbacks include discomfort with forecasting long-term revenue and expenditures, along with a perceived lack of flexibility, Brown noted. But budget amendments are still possible for new council directions, cost drivers, and new or changed regulations.
“Both council and administration will have an opportunity to address future expenses and revenue anyway during the budget update process,” he added.
Before the pandemic, Ontario began work on changes to funding formulas for programs in childcare, employment and social services and public health.
Permanent changes to these formulas will see municipal taxpayers paying a larger share of the cost, the staff report said.
And Chatham-Kent may see another decrease in Ontario municipal partnership funding for the 2024 budget year, due to assessment growth and positive employment and household income indicators.
Chatham Coun. Brock McGregor, who serves as budget chair, was pleased with Monday’s report, noting the changes will help people better understand the process and its long-term impacts.
“(It’s) beneficial for businesses. It’s beneficial for homeowners,” he said. “London’s been doing it for a while now. They got through the challenge of COVID much like we did, with that four-year budget process. . . . It shows that it can work in just about any climate.”
Chief administrator Michael Duben said there will be training for senior and extended management this month.
“Once we get into it, we’ll realize that it’s really not all that different,” he said, adding most of the adjustment likely will happen in the first year.
“We’ll have to work through this together,” Duben said. “It is something new for all of us.”
When: Nov. 15, 6 p.m.
Where: Council chambers
What: Information meeting will review staff recommendations and any issues facing council. Public deputations for funding will be scheduled for this evening as well.
COMMUNITY CONSULTATIONS (ONLINE)
When: Nov. 22, noon; Nov. 23, 7 p.m.
What: A brief presentation will be followed by a question and answer period.
When: Nov. 28, 29 and 30, 6 p.m. (Dec. 5 and 6, if needed)
Where: Council chambers
What: Budget deliberation meetings. Public participation is scheduled for 8 p.m.
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