St. Lazare grandparent complains about high day camp fees for non-resident grandchildren
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
St. Lazare council was criticized by resident Maureen Rodrigues over its policy of charging grandparents more than three times the cost to pre-register their non-resident grandchildren at its summer day camp.
A St. Lazare policy that requires grandparents who want to pre-register their non-resident grandchildren into the town’s day camp program to pay fees three times higher than is charged for resident children raised the ire of a grandparent who complained about the matter to Mayor Robert Grimaudo during question period at the Tuesday evening council meeting, May 3.
Maureen Rodrigues, a St. Lazare resident for 31 years, said that there was no problem when she recently tried to pre-register her three grandchildren at Parc nature Les Forestiers-de-Saint-Lazare Day Camp in Les Cèdres, but was shocked when she discovered that it would cost her $250 for each child to be enrolled for a one week, five day period.
St. Lazare parents pay $80 for their first child, $75 for their second child and $70 for their third for the same one week, five day period. As a St. Lazare taxpayer who has made regular contributions to the day camp over the years through her taxes, Rodrigues argued that her grandchildren should be able to use day camp at a more reasonable cost despite not being town residents.
Rodrigues said she never used the day camp when her children were growing up and would even be willing to pay a slightly higher fee but told council that having to pay more than three times the cost is unfair, especially since she’s been indirectly contributing to the day camp through her taxes.
“I am treated as a non-resident and have to pay higher fees as a non-resident which I can’t afford,” Rodrigues told council. “I’ve been paying taxes all these years and have not benefitted from it. Why can we not have the same principle and rule as Hudson, which allows grandparents who have non-resident grandchildren to pay the same rates as residents?”
Grimaudo said there are taxes that go towards the functioning of the day camp, but said that overall it’s a self-financing operation primarily geared towards St. Lazare parents and their children.
“The policy is very clear in that St. Lazare residents have the priority for the day camp and when the registration period is completed, non-residents can register their kids,” said Grimaudo. “There is a fee difference and its principle is that it’s the parents who pay through their taxes who have the priority.
“I understand your situation,” Grimaudo added. “We can’t regulate by exceptions. If there are changes that will be made in the future, we can look at it. Right now, this situation had been brought to council’s attention and at this time with where we are with registrations, council decided not to make changes.”
The mayor’s response didn’t satisfy Rodrigues. “This discrepancy between the $80 and $250 to me is unfair,” Rodrigues told Your Local Journal afterwards. “It’s totally unrealistic with three children to have to pay this much. To me that’s unacceptable. Because of the relationship (with her grandchildren) they (the city) could have made a half-way point in the cost.”
Councillor Pamela Tremblay tried to further clarify the town’s position saying that the person who registers their children is usually the parent or legal guardian and suggested that Rodrigues consider obtaining legal guardian status that may allow her to register her grandchildren as residents.
Resident Elizabeth Rozon took up Rodrigues’ plight and criticized council for allocating $350,000 for this year’s Festival au Galop on top of the almost $600,000 that was spent last year to host the event while a grandparent who has financial difficulties cannot register her non-resident grandchildren for day camp because of the cost.
“Mrs. Rodrigues is here complaining that her grandchildren can’t go to summer camp,” said Rozon. “Why are you nickel and diming children? I just feel you’re throwing our money away and the council is acting with no respect whatsoever to the taxpayer.”
Grimaudo replied that despite Rozon’s constant public criticism of the cost associated with staging the Festival au Galop, the event will continue because of its prestige which will eventually bring financial returns to the town in the long-term and that Rodrigues’ situation will be again reviewed by council.