Rigaud council puts proposed tax increase on hold
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Rigaud resident Yvon Mathieu (holding newspaper) was one of many Rigaud residents protesting the proposed municipal tax increase at an extraordinary meeting held Monday, January 22.
It was standing room only in the Rigaud Town Council chamber as residents poured in and waited for the meeting to begin the evening of Monday, January 22. They were there to protest the tax rates and tariffs ruling that would have imposed a significant tax increase of eight per cent or more on municipal property owners.
Removed from agenda
“We decided in the light of new information to return to the table and redo the work,” said Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. The mayor declined to elaborate on the details of the new information. “We found things that we are not comfortable with and we will begin again,” he said.
Before the meeting was called to order, Communications Director Marie-Andrée Gagnon announced that the agenda item pertaining to taxation had been removed and would be readdressed at a later date.
In an effort to accommodate the concerns of the capacity crowd, the agenda was further revised by moving the closing question period to the beginning of the meeting. Town Clerk Hélène Therrien noted that extraordinary town council meetings have only one question period as opposed to the two in a regular council meeting.
For over two hours, citizens asked questions on a wide range of issues.
“When the 2020 Project was announced in 2014, you said there wouldn’t be a tax increase,” said resident Kevin Ménard. “If you recall, the project was for the construction of the fire hall, the town hall and a public works building,” replied the mayor. He said the fire hall received a provincial government grant covering 50 per cent of the costs and the balance was covered by the sale of the former town hall and public works buildings on J. René-Gauthier Road for $1.5 million. He said the attempts to sell town property located at 73 Saint-Pierre Street had not proved successful to date. “We have decided to hold onto the property until we receive an offer that is favourable to the Town of Rigaud,” said the mayor.
“The priority of the essential services is important. We don’t need composting bins. We can and are doing our own composting,” said Sandra Piening in reference to a forecasted expense of approximately $300,000 for the purchase of bins and the start-up costs of an organic material collection program. The mayor responded saying the Quebec Government had mandated the collection of organic material for the composting program. Director General Chantal Lemieux added kitchen waste that cannot be put into home compost is included in the program.
Piening also raised the issue that many residents affected by the 2017 spring flooding, including herself, are now finding out that their septic systems have to be replaced. She said the cost of replacing a septic system coupled with a property tax increase was more than most could afford.
“The situation with the septic systems is due to upgraded rules by the province,” said Gruenwald adding, “I don’t agree with how the provincial rules are being applied but it is beyond the control of this town. So far, since the flooding, the Ministry of the Environment has not been listening to us. We are getting nowhere with them.”
Several people pointed out that other communities affected by the spring flooding were not increasing taxes to the same degree. “We do not over tax which means we don’t have a big reserve set aside for situations like we have today,” replied the mayor.
He reiterated that councillors, committee members and department directors would meet to rework the budget in the near future. Although an exact date was not given, presentation of the revised budget will likely happen in February.