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What to do about the budget?

Normally at this time of year, Côte Saint-Luc city council would have adopted its budget. However we remain in a holding pattern because of the City of Montreal.

Here is a press release issued today by the Association of Suburban Mayors, which best describes the situation.

On Wednesday January 13th, City of Montreal taxpayers will learn how much the Tremblay administration proposes to increase their property taxes for 2010. At the same time, Montreal Island suburbs will also finally discover the details of proposed increases in their contribution to regional services, increases which will translate into substantial hikes in their residents’ tax bills. Regional spending includes things like police, fire protection, mass transit, water management, and so on.

 

Even at this late hour, Montreal’s suburban “partners” who contribute to these regional costs have been told simply that their contribution will go up by roughly 13%. They are still in the dark about how this number was arrived at. What is clear is that these alarming increases are driven by one thing: runaway spending by the City of Montreal. Since the birth in 2006 of the “Agglomeration Council” where City of Montreal representatives rubber stamp regional spending over the objections of suburban mayors, such costs have ballooned by over three times the rate of inflation.

 

For example, in 2006, fire protection costs according to Montreal’s audited financial statements amounted to $264 million. The 2009 Budget called for fire protection spending of $304 million – a 15% increase. Inflation over the same three year period was only 5%. Mass transit costs were $321 million in 2006, but rose to $371 million in the 2009 budget: a 16% increase. Police costs went from $476 million to $567 million during the same period: a 19% increase. While there were some offsetting new police revenues, costs still rose far more than the rate of inflation.

 

If one removes the costs for arterial roads – which were returned to local municipalities to manage – overall regional spending went from $1,776 million to $2,067 million in three years: a 16.4% increase that is over three times the rate of inflation.

 

“All signs point to a continuation of this penchant for spending increases well over the rate of inflation when Montreal tables its 2010 Budget,” said the president of the Association of Suburban Municipalities, Westmount Mayor Peter F. Trent.

 

“Residents across the island will see the suburban mayors vigorously contesting these spiraling costs that will lead to tax hikes that no one can afford in this recessionary climate,” commented  Côte-St-Luc Mayor , Anthony Housefather.

 

 

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