Letter to the editor 1, May 18, 2017

Saint-Lazare finances show lack of transparency

Dear Editor,

With the recent decision by the Saint-Lazare town council to use $2,080,000 of accumulated surplus to cover the town’s portion of the estimated $8 million cost to finally stabilize the Chaline Valley Landslide zone, two issues have come to light.

The first issue was the mayor’s assertion in a recent article in this newspaper that the payment from its accumulated surplus “will not impact taxpayers.” Given that accumulated surplus in general results from the excess of taxes paid by the town’s taxpayers over operating costs, when I raised the accuracy of that statement at the last town council meeting, the mayor had no choice but to agree that indeed the impact of using accumulated surplus was that taxpayers would not have to write a cheque for additional taxes as the town would use the excess tax that it had already collected. This is hardly a case of ‘no impact on taxpayers’!

The second and perhaps more worrisome issue came to light when I filed a request, under the access to information law, for additional information regarding our accumulated surplus. Again as previously reported in this newspaper, the mayor when questioned about whether the town might use its accumulated surplus to pay for the proposed roundabout project (a project widely criticized by many of the town’s citizens) replied, “The likelihood of that happening is next to none.

When it’s not for emergency measures or very serious problems, I don’t think there’s one councillor who would accept using the surplus as a way of payment without consulting the population. I can’t speak for anybody else at this table but for myself, and unless it deals with public security or if people’s health is in danger, only then would we go to the surplus to take care of it quickly.”

Given that reassurance of how the use of our accumulated surplus is restricted, can you imagine my surprise when the data I received from the town’s finance department shows that in the last three and a half years of their mandate, town council has in fact approved use of our accumulated surplus more than ninety (90) times for a total in excess of $5.3 million? More than 90 times to cover expenses for emergency measures or very serious problems? I think not!

The fact of the matter is that during my questioning at the last town council meeting as to what the estimated total cost of the new town hall would be (a topic for another letter, another day), it came to light that our accumulated surplus was being used for hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses relating to the new town hall.

Transparency of the use of our finances? I think not!

Brian Trainor

A Concerned Saint-Lazare Resident

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