• John Jantak

St. Lazare town councillors receive 76 per cent salary increase


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Michel Lambert, a former St. Lazare councillor and mayoral candidate in the last municipal election, brought the town to task for adopting a 76 per cent salary increase for its councillors during question period at the Tuesday evening council meeting.

The Town of St. Lazare passed a resolution that will see the remuneration for its councillors increase by 76 per cent it was announced at the Tuesday evening council meeting, March 10. Michel Lambert, a former councillor and mayoral candidate during the last municipal election, brought the town to task for the apparent hefty increase during question period. Lambert said the current administration should try to keep taxes for its residents as low as possible instead of giving council a substantial salary increase.

Property taxes have risen an average of 4.5 per cent in the past seven years and property values increased an average of six per cent in 2015. Mayor Robert Grimaudo defended the increase saying while councillors’ salaries were being increased from $11,000 to just over $19,000, they will no longer receive a $100 stipend for each municipal committee meeting or function they attend. The stipend was introduced in mid-2013 and has been in effect until the current salary increase was adopted.

“What we did tonight is not really a salary increase,” said Grimaudo. “In reality, they all earned an average of $19,000 last year. It’s just that the money came from two different pots. What we did was simplify the administration of the salaries.” He added that the salaries municipal councillors in Quebec receive are supposed to be one-third of the salary received by the mayor which was never the case as it is now. Grimaudo earns $56,513 annually as mayor.

To illustrate his point, Grimaudo showed Your Local Journal a breakdown of the number of committee meetings councillors attended and the total money they earned in 2014. The amount ranged from $6,000 to $10,000 and the average remuneration was $7,400. Grimaudo used District 1 Councillor Lise Jolicoeur’s committee meeting participation record to illustrate the difference in the remuneration between councillors.

“She sits on the environment, public security and community garden committees,” said Grimaudo. “Assuming they meet only once a month, which isn’t much, it adds up to $300 a month or $3,600 a year. We also have a working group table where we meet every Tuesday and have a caucus, so that’s another $400 a month. “There are actually a lot of meetings. In fact this has got to be one of the most devoted councils in a long, long time. They’re involved in everything. There’s not one councillor that is not involved in almost every aspect of the community which is a good thing,” Grimaudo added.

He said the town has received a lot of calls recently from residents regarding their property tax increases which he attributes to increasing property valuations even though the mill rate has essentially remained stable in the last eight years aside from minor fluctuations that occur annually. The mill rate or valuation role, the amount of property tax charged per $100 of valuation, was 64 cents in 2007. The current mill rate is 67 cents.

“The mill rate is not really that much different than it was eight years ago,” said Grimaudo. “It’s the property valuation that keeps rising. I don’t necessarily agree with it because my house is not necessarily worth more on the market than it was two or three years ago. But the reality is that the valuation is what property taxes are based and it keeps going up.

“Tax increases are not going to change,” Grimaudo added. “When the provincial government stops downloading responsibilities onto the municipalities and the day there’s zero inflation, then there won’t be any tax increases.”

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