• John Jantak

Public information session will unveil Ste. Anne’s 2015 budget


JOHN JANTAK

Ste. Anne de Bellevue residents can expect property tax increases and cuts to some services as the city prepares to unveil its 2015 annual budget a special information session this evening at Centre Harpell at 7:30 p.m.

Ste. Anne de Bellevue residents can expect property tax increases and cuts to municipal services to make up for an estimated $700,000 budget shortfall as the city prepares to hold a public information session this evening, December 11, to reveal its upcoming 2015 budget. Mayor Paola Hawa said council has been hastily revising its figures the past few weeks to make up for the unexpected shortfall due to a $275,000 cut to the city from the provincial fiscal pact and a $100,000 increase in its contribution to the City of Montreal agglomeration.

Hawa said these and other revenue cuts, coupled with an anticipated $2.3 million loan-by-law to reconfigure the former westbound Highway Exit 41 interchange at Boulevard des Anciens Combattants into a T-intersection and long-overdue infrastructure work on Garden City Avenue, has put the city in the path of a financial ‘perfect storm.’

“$700,000 is a lot of money for a small municipality like ours especially with two big expenses coming,” Hawa told Your Local Journal. “Things are going to have to be a little bit different, not because we want to, but because we have to do the responsible thing. “We’ve tried to address these issues in our budget that will be presented tonight,” added Hawa. “We’ve lowered our expenses primarily in areas that will not directly affect the citizens in terms of direct services. We’re going to have to rationalize some of the services that we’re offering and the annual the events that we hold.”

One annual event that the city is considering cancelling next year is the Magie Noël that cost the city about $8000 to stage the four-hour event this year. “We’re looking for things where we get bang for our buck, like the annual Fête Nationale,” said Hawa. “We’re proposing to keep something like that, maybe scale it back a bit. “We don’t want to take any chances,” she added. “We want to do the responsible thing and at the same time, we have to respect the people’s ability to pay taxes.

We can’t keep on taxing people over and over again. Something has got to give this time. We cut our expenses to try and accommodate this loss of revenue but there’s still going to be some residual effects that we’ll have to address one way or another.” Hawa said the $275,000 cut from the fiscal pact unfairly targets the city because it’s aimed directly towards its two higher learning institutions, McGill University and John Abbott College, whereas the neighbouring municipality of Baie D’Urfé, which has one elementary school will, receive an increase because the province is funneling more money into the elementary school system.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” said Hawa. “We understand what it means to the city over the next few years. The provincial government may say it’s only for this year that we’ll take the hit and next year we’ll give the money back. I’ll believe it when I see it.” Hawa is also critical of the substantial increase Ste. Anne’s has to assume to the City of Montreal agglomeration, saying its annual contribution now amounts to just over $10 million, 55 per cent of the town’s annual.

“I think they’re trying to kill us off,” said Hawa, referring to the agglomeration. “We’re trying to manage with less and less money every year, and now there’s this huge grab. The provincial government has it good because they’re balancing their budget. “Montreal is all proud of themselves because their tax increase is going to be 1.9 per cent, but they stick it to us,” added Hawa.

“We’re the ones that have to face the people because they’re not going to go to Montreal city hall to complain. They’re not going to call their provincial MNA to complain. They’re going to complain to us.” Ste. Anne’s 2015 budget will be presented this evening, December 11, at the Centre Harpell at 7:30 p.m.

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