Coming in with a 1.16 per cent increase — the lowest since amalgamation — the Chatham-Kent police budget was approved during the opening night of deliberations on Jan. 27.
The budget totals $32.3 million.
Chief Gary Conn gave the virtual presentation, providing a brief rundown of the service and its current realities with respect to the evolution of policing.
Last year’s police budget boasted a 1.75 per cent hike, the same as the previous year. The latest increase has a 0.23 per cent impact on the overall proposed tax increase.
“We have been rather consistent trying to keep the increases in line with the consumer price index and inflation,” said Conn, adding there are no new staffing requests or service reductions in the budget.
“This is the lowest increase for our police budget in the history, 23 years, of our existence.”
A total of 89 per cent of the expenditures are personnel-related, the chief said. Five per cent is for fleet, while four per cent is related to administration, including equipment, infrastructure and information technology.
Two per cent is allocated for operations, lifecycle, crime prevention and variable overtime costs.
There are 164 sworn Chatham-Kent police officers, plus 62 civilian staff. There were 76,851 occurrences last year, which was an increase of 4,559 from 2019.
Conn expects the higher call volume trend will continue, given the “complex social disorders” prevalent within the community.
“We are dealing with far more people who are suffering from mental health, addictions, emotional violence, alcoholism, poverty and homelessness than ever before,” he said.
The chief credited his staff for their service during the pandemic, “who, over the last year, went further than the extra mile” in keeping the community safe.
After the police budget was accepted, Coun. Melissa Harrigan entered a successful motion to trim a proposed increase to the storm sewer lifecycle from $675,000 to $475,000.
While she supports funding infrastructure, she said she hoped to mitigate the proposed tax increase, which now sits at 3.83 per cent, down slightly from an initial 3.96 per cent.
Councillors adjourned to closed session for the remainder of the evening.
Deliberations are to resume Thursday at 6 p.m. and are available on YourTV, as well as live-streamed on the YourTV YouTube channel.
Residents can submit written presentations of up to five minutes during deliberations. Submissions must be made by emailing email@example.com before 3 p.m. each day.
Deputations on specific topics generating significant community interest will be scheduled and announced prior to the budget committee’s deliberations.
Comments can also be made by email to firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail to Budget & Performance Services, Municipality of Chatham-Kent, 315 King St. W., P.O. Box 640, Chatham, Ont., N7M 5K8; or by phone at 519-360-1998 ext. 3100.
Virtual budget dates
Thursday, Jan. 28, and Tuesday, Feb. 2, each from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
(If needed: Wednesday, Feb. 3, and Thursday, Feb. 4)