• John Jantak

Vaudreuil-Dorion raises most property taxes by 3.4 per cent


JOHN JANTAK

Marco Pilon, Vaudreuil-Dorion Treasurer and Director of Finances, presents the city’s 2015 budget during a special council meeting on Monday, December 15.

Vaudreuil-Dorion residents will have to dig a little deeper into their pockets after the city announced that residential property taxes will rise by 3.4 per cent next year during a presentation of its 2015 municipal budget that was adopted at a special council meeting on Monday, December 15.

For homeowners, the 3.4 per cent increase represents a hike of $61 for a house evaluated at $277,100, said Marco Pilon, the city’s Treasurer and Director of Finances who presented the budget to a packed council chamber as about 30 residents sat and listened to the presentation. The mill rate, which represents the amount of residential property tax charged for each $100 of valuation increased by .022 cents, from 0.6470 cents in 2014 to 0.6690 cents for 2015.

The city’s tax rate for commerce, industry and agriculture will also increase by 3.4 per cent, while property taxes for vacant, non-serviced lots will rise 10 per cent. The city’s total operating budget for 2015 is $65.2 million compared to 62.7 million in 2014, a $2.5 million increase of which $1.5 million is directly attributed to the recent cuts in various transfer payment cuts imposed by the provincial government onto municipalities which will go to pay down the province’s budget deficit.

Without intending to minimize the financial difficulties many people are facing, Pilon said for the average homeowner, the $61 increase represents an additional weekly expenditure of $1.25, less than a cup of coffee. Georges Lefebvre, who was Mayor of Vaudreuil from 1973 to 1977 before the municipality merged with Dorion in 1994, told council during question period that while the increase may seem insignificant, when coupled with the rise in school taxes this year and the ever-increasing cost of living, the average $61 jump in property taxes puts additional financial pressure on seniors who live on fixed incomes.

Pilon said he was aware of the financial stress many people are enduring, particularly seniors. He later told Your Local Journal in a telephone interview that tax and property evaluation increases are a double-edged sword because while taxes rise as valuations increase, long-time homeowners who have paid down their mortgages stand to gain financially through appreciation when they sell their homes and downgrade to smaller accommodations or make other living arrangements.

Lefebvre’s comment is also indicative of how the provincial government shifted the onus of taxation by dumping the burden directly onto the municipalities as the province tries to eliminate its deficit, said Pilon. He also criticized Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau for his recent comments that the province would reimburse citizens if municipalities adopted excessive tax increases.

“I have a lot of respect for Mr. Moreau and he’s doing a job that isn’t easy to do, but he can’t make $300 million in payment cuts to the municipalities and expect us to absorb it,” said Pilon. “First of all he doesn’t have the right to reimburse citizens and second it will cost more to reimburse the small amount citizens would receive. Is he also going to reimburse commercial and industrial property owners?

“Right now he has 1,100 mayors on his back and no one agrees with what he said that he will come and lead our towns,” added Pilon. “If he wants to take over our towns, then go ahead and resign the mayors and councillors. And if he thinks he can do a better job than us, and then do it. The problem is the provincial government has lived with deficits and they don’t understand that.

Municipalities are not allowed to have deficits.” Moreau also said despite transfer payment cuts to the municipalities, most could dip into their surplus funds to offset significant tax increases. While Vaudreuil-Dorion has about $10 million in surplus funds, Pilon said $9 million has already been allocated to its major infrastructure revitalization program to upgrade its water purification and sewage treatment facilities that will cost the municipality around $70 million.

The remaining $1 million will be kept aside as a contingency fund to deal with unexpected emergencies While the city’s 3.4 per cent tax increase may seem substantial, Pilon said many other municipalities have separate charges for garbage collection, recycling, waste water treatment and Sûreté du Québec police services, whereas the city lumps all these expenses into the property tax rate.

Pilon noted that city has kept its promise not to cut back on any of its cultural and recreational activities. The city will build two new bike paths, increase public security patrols and develop an action plan for emerald ash trees in the municipality as part of its capital expenditure spending for 2015.

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