I must say how remarkable I find it that on the night that we adopt our annual budget, something that affects each and every citizen and business in the community, the turnout at this public meeting is absolutely dismal. Such was the case December 16. Besides the mayor, eight city councillors and city manager on podium, the audience consisted of nine people: two citizens, two citizens who also work for the city, three other employees and two Volunteer Citizens on Patrol (VCops) who were handling security detail.
Oh yes, the budget for fiscal year 2009. It amounts to 54 million dollars and reflects a tax increase of 1.9 percent for a property that increased an average 36 percent as a result of the implementation of the 2007-2010 valuation assessment roll. The increase of 1.9 percent is less than the rate of inflation.
As Mayor Anthony Housefathet stated: "The council is sensitive to the pressure many families feel as a result of the economic recession and fears about finances and savings. We again reviewed all our programs and services and added programs and services where required and balanced those additions with cuts across all departments to ensure we can continue to deliver the highest quality of service at a reasonable cost. This year was exceptionally challenging due to the large increases in the costs of some contracts such as snow clearing and asphalt so council and staff spent a very long time reviewing expenditures to ensure we could keep the average tax increase below two percent."
The owner of a single-family home whose property valuation increased at the average rate of 36 percent will pay 1.90 percent more in property taxes than in 2008. Other individual tax accounts may be lower or higher, depending on the variation of their assessment in the four-year property valuation assessment roll, which increased the valuation of some properties more than others. To help minimize the impact of property valuation increases greater than the Côte Saint-Luc average of 36 percent, the City of Côte Saint-Luc has reduced the tax rate (also called the "mill rate") on all properties.
As a result of reforms to the island-wide Agglomeration council in 2008, the City of Montreal will no longer send a tax bill to Côte Saint-Luc residents. Instead, the City of Côte Saint-Luc now sets the property tax rates, collects the taxes and sends money to the Agglomeration of Montreal based on a fair mathematical formula approved by the Quebec government. Residents will receive this one bill from Côte Saint-Luc in late January 2009. The property tax bill is due in two installments: February 26 and May 28, 2009.
In 2009, owners of single-family homes and duplexes will be charged a one-time fee of $50 for the purchase of a covered new blue recycling bin. Residents will be permitted to choose the size of their new bin. Also, the City of Côte Saint-Luc will continue to charge a water tax and apply the revenues from this tax to its special financial reserve for water. The taxes raised will be used to pay engineering consulting firm Dessau Inc. for the maintenance and improvement of the Côte Saint-Luc water infrastructure, to buy water from the City of Montreal and to pay down the debt owed to the City of Montreal for the purchase the water distribution network in the territory of Côte Saint-Luc. Similar to municipal taxes, the water tax is also based on the taxable valuation of residential and non-residential properties.
Again this year, the city council and management team used a strict budget process used in the private sector. Instead of using historical budgets as a base and adding to it, a form of zero-based budgeting was used where every department function was reviewed comprehensively and all expenditures had to be justified. This budgeting process allows city council and the management team to allocate resources more efficiently as it is based on real needs and priorities, allows for better understanding of overall budgets, encourages managers to find cost effective ways to improve operations, and complements the city’s objectives of financial accountability.
Capital expenditures budget
Just as the operating budget allows short-term planning and control of current operating needs, the capital expenditures budget is a tool to aid long-term planning and control of long-range and capital needs, such as road and sidewalk replacement, sewer replacement and repairs, repairs to municipal buildings, upgrades and improvements to parks, pools and equipment, replacement and upgrade of municipal vehicles.
The three-year capital expenditures budget is $20.4 million in 2009, $5.8 million in 2010 and $5.4 million in 2011. The City of Côte Saint-Luc will continue to maximize the use of grants that are available for capital expenditures such as the Gas Tax Fund, F.I.M.R. and sports/recreation grants from the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS). The Intergenerational/Aquatic Centre has been identified as a possible project for 2009 costing approximately $15 million. The City of Côte Saint-Luc has submitted an application for funding of $7.5 million to MELS to cover half the cost of the project. The municipality is waiting for a positive reply from MELS before making a decision to proceed.
Go to www.cotesaintluc.org where you can see the detailed power point presentation that was prepared by Councillor Dida Berku, who is responsible for finance.