• John Jantak

Saint-Lazare resident asks for tax breaks to reduce foundation repair expenditures


THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/JOHN JANTAK

Taken in 2017 at a house on Rue Champêtre, this shows the stabilization work in progress after the homeowner said a hairline crack in a gyprock wall in the basement eventually grew to about a one-half inch crevice.

A Saint-Lazare resident asked town council whether they would consider forgiving tax payments for at least one year and perhaps longer to a group of resident homeowners who had to undergo major renovation work recently to stabilize their sinking foundations.

The unique proposal was made by Darrin Etcovitch during question period at the start of the regular monthly council meeting on March 12. “I was one of the people who had to pay $60,000 to have my house lifted because of foundation problems. It didn’t include the cost for landscaping, redoing the basement and repaving the driveway, which cost an additional $20,000,” he told council.

Subsidy program

Etcovitch, who lives on Rue des Ancêtres near Chemin Ste. Angélique, said he’s one of the lucky residents in the area who applied for the town’s subsidy program and got a total of $20,000 – $10,000 from the city and another $10,000 from the province – which helped to offset a small portion of the overall expenditures to stabilize his house.

The stabilization work was done in October, 2017 and he received his subsidy in March, 2018. “I’m grateful for this part, but I’m still down $60,000 which is a lot of money for a house that’s evaluated at $350,000,” Etcovitch told council.

Other homeowners didn’t receive a subsidy when they had their houses stabilized. Etcovitch proposed the town consider giving residents a property tax break, both for those who received a subsidy and those who didn’t receive financial help to deal with the large financial burden.

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Saint-Lazare homeowner Darrin Etcovitch asks council at the March 12 meeting if they would consider providing a property tax holiday to homeowners who recently had to endure up to $80,000 in expenditures to have their foundations stabilized.

‘A drop in the bucket’

“Assuming there are 20 people who apply for a credit, and assuming each home pays $3,000 in taxes annually and knowing the city budget is $31 million, if you give a tax break to those 20 people in one year, it would only cost 0.2 per cent of the city’s annual budget. It would help people live a little bit better by allowing them to help pay the extra fees,” said Etcovitch.

He contends his request is to provide an additional form of compensation for people who unknowingly bought homes in an area prone to foundation issues. “Even if you increased the number of people to 50 that you give this tax break to, it would only amount to 0.5 per cent of the town’s operating budget,” he said.

“It’s a drop in the bucket for the city. For me or anyone else who’s had to pay $80,000; that’s a huge amount. For people who lifted their houses, which is probably around 20 to 50 people, are you willing to give these people some kind of financial help in terms of not having to pay taxes for at least one year or at least for a few years?” Etcovitch asked.

Mayor non-committal

“I’m sure you’re not expecting an answer now,” said Mayor Robert Grimaudo. “We will put it on our agenda for next week to discuss it amongst the elected officials. Nobody can change what was done over 20 years ago and the decisions that were made,” he said.

The only thing this council can do and as the previous council has done is address the issue to find a way to help the people that are in that situation, and that’s what’s been done,” said Grimaudo.

‘We don’t bend the rules’

Councillor Pamela Tremblay, who served on the previous municipal council, was doubtful the request would be accepted. “I don’t think we can give a tax break just where we wish. Subsidies always have criteria that people must meet – for the town as much as for the homeowners,” said Tremblay

“We don’t bend the rules. It has to be same for all, equitable. I don’t think we can just decide to give a tax break where we wish. There are very limited situations where tax breaks can be given but it has to be equitable to all taxpayers. I pretty sure this doesn’t meet the criteria,” said Tremblay.

Etcovitch was disappointed with council’s response. “It’s a typical response by not accepting any responsibility,” he said. “They should take responsibility for what happened. They think that what they did with the first subsidy is good enough. I don’t think anything is going to happen.”

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