• Carmen Marie Fabio

Ste. Anne de Bellevue scheduled budget meeting cancelled


YLJ FILE PHOTO/CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Ste. Anne de Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa is asking elected council members to reach a compromise in the best interests of residents in adopting its 2016 budget.

Citing an insurmountable impasse within council, Ste. Anne de Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa today announced that the scheduled Budget 2016 information session that was to be held December 15 has been cancelled.

“Of course you cannot propose a budget if you cannot agree on what the budget is,” she told Your Local Journal.

“One of the big hurdles to the operation’s budget is whether or not to cut one specific position within the administration,” Hawa said, declining to specify the exact position.

“We are not a private company, we’re a municipality, and part of our responsibility is to provide quality service to our residents.” Hawa said that over the past two years, council has cut between $250,000 and $300,000 in salaries comprising full and part time positions and that any further cuts will have a direct detrimental effect on Ste. Anne’s residents.

“It’s the law of diminishing returns,” she said. “At a certain point, we have to be responsible.”

Hawa said even with the contested position being on the town payroll, the expected tax increase is significantly under the current rate of inflation. “There’s no financial incentive to be doing it. Why cut services when there is no return for doing so?”

Hawa said it’s not the job of elected officials to micromanage the administration. “The political is there to set directives, set a policy, and a vision. If our vision is to spend less “X” spending, it’s up to administration to decide where to find “X” knowing what they do about how the city runs so services are not affected,” she said. “For the political to interfere in the administration and say, ‘we want that specific position,’ I don’t think is appropriate.”

The Capital Works project that consists of infrastructure projects for both the southern and norther portions of the town, are also reportedly delayed, with the project in the north getting less support from council.

“I believe both the north and the south should be treated equitably,” said Hawa of the town that, like many in the west island, is divided by a major highway. “The north has been neglected for way too many years, and it’s time it sees some money poured in. I cannot accept that the two different areas are treated differently.”

A communiqué issued by the town late the afternoon of December 15 states, in part, “… As Mayor I will continue to work this week to find a solution to this situation so that we may reach a consensus for the 2016 special budget meeting scheduled for December 21. I invite all members of Council to consider reasonable compromise, first and foremost, in the best interests of all Ste. Anne residents. This said, it is unfortunate that the current situation requires that we cancel the public information session for the 2016 budget.”

The situation needs to be resolved and the town’s budget approved before it issues tax bills by January 15, 2016. If not, Hawa said the cost to the town will be $63,000 a month in interest on its financial obligations to repaying Agglomeration expenses.

“I can tell you, that is way more than what it would cost us to maintain that (contested) position.”

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