Rigaud residents slam council for property tax increases up to 13.7 per cent
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
A Rigaud resident gestures to council as he complains about residential property tax hikes during a special session that saw the town’s 2020 budget adopted on December 16. Taxes will rise between 8.3 per cent to 13.7 per cent depending in which sector a resident resides.
Calls made for provincial inquiry into town’s management
It was standing room only as Rigaud council adopted its 2020 municipal budget to a chorus of boos and jeers as approximately 150 residents crowded into the Paul Brasseur Building on Monday, December 16 to voice their displeasure with the significant property tax hikes they will receive next year.
Calls were also made for the municipality to be put under trusteeship and for the Commission Municipale du Québec to conduct an independent investigation into how the town is managed. Property taxes will rise between 8.3 per cent to 13.7 per cent in 2020 depending on which sector residents reside.
Town should consider trusteeship
“I think it’s very obvious that the citizens have lost all confidence in you,” resident Sandra Piening told Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. and council during question period. “May I suggest that you open yourselves up to an independent study and perhaps put yourselves under trusteeship. The spending is outrageous. You guys have gone out and borrowed money left, right and centre ever since the mayor came in six years ago.”
Piening said the tax increase will be especially hard on seniors. “It’s shameful. It’s putting so much stress on everybody in this town especially for the majority of seniors and young couples with young children. It’s absolutely disgusting. They will not get back in at the next election,” Piening told The Journal afterwards.
Budget adoption put to vote
The resolution to adopt the 2020 budget was put to a vote by council before it was adopted. Councillors Marie-Claude Frigault and Archie Martin voted against its adoption. Councillors Édith de Haerne, André Boucher, Danny Lalonde, Mario Gauthier and Mayor Gruenwald voted in favour.
The two dissenting councillors were cheered for their opposition to the budget and the four supporting councillors and mayor were booed for adopting it. The vote came after council spent almost two hours listening to people’s complaints about the tax increase and the town’s spending patterns.
Barrage of complaints
One resident said maybe it’s time for people to move to other nearby municipalities where property taxes and the costs of municipal services are lower. Another resident blamed the municipal administration for the problem saying that in addition to the hefty tax increase, expenditures for services have increased substantially compared to other municipalities within the MRC.
“The reason we’re here tonight is because higher taxes are a trend. We’ve had large increases year after year after year. Stop spending on major projects and revise the budget to respect the rate of inflation,” said another resident.
Unfair to make comparisons
Gruenwald said it wasn’t fair to make comparisons because each municipality has their own unique needs. Many municipalities have already taken care of their new infrastructure requirements and some have populations up to four times higher than Rigaud, he added.
“Nothing major has been done in this town in the past 20 years. Our roads are deteriorating. We’re in a precarious situation,” said Gruenwald. The audience responded with more boos.
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. listens as residents complain about residential property tax hikes to council during a special session that saw the town’s 2020 budget adopted on December 16.
Mayor explains tax increase
The mayor provided his own personal assessment of the budget. “I think it’s totally unrealistic. It’s way out of control but there were no choices because of the 2017 and 2019 floods that emptied what we had in our reserve. Then when we put all these things together, we had a 100 per cent increase in our snow removal contract because we went to tender this year,” said Gruenwald.
“I don’t like the increase any more than anybody else. I looked into the bucket and I can’t find any money anywhere. What do I do? To make any difference I would have to eliminate a complete department like recreation or public works or not make payments for the services we receive like the Sûreté du Québec (SQ). There are no options on the table. That’s the problem. We’re not squandering money,” Gruenwald added.
Complete budget details are available on the town’s website at www.ville.rigaud.qc.ca/documents-de-la-rencontre-dinformation-sur-le-budget-2020/.