Demerged municipalities, hurt by high tax increases, want Plante to revisit budget

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Westmount mayor blames Montreal for 3% property tax hike

Montreal residents aren't the only ones feeling burned by the city's budget announced earlier this week which includes higher tax increases than expected.

The mayors of demerged municipalities on the island of Montreal are asking Mayor Valérie Plante to revisit the budget her administration released Wednesday.

The spike accounts for an average of 3.3 per cent across Montreal's boroughs with increases as high as 5.6 per cent in some of them.

But the municipalities in the agglomeration are getting hit too. They are being asked to contribute, on average, an extra 5.3 per cent for services Montreal shares with them. Collectively, the municipalities represent 246,000 Montreal island residents. 

Some will have to pay as much as 9.8 per cent more, which is the case for the Town of Mount Royal. Montreal West will have to pay 9 per cent.

"I almost fell off my chair, I have to be honest with you," said Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella.

Residential taxes could go up

The majority say they won't be able to fully absorb the costs, meaning it's likely local residential taxes will go up. The municipalities also say they were not warned of the raises beforehand as they were in the past. 

"This was incredible to find out, essentially, at the same time as the media," said Westmount's mayor, Christina Smith, on Daybreak Friday morning.

"Many of the cities had already passed their budgets," Smith said.

She said Westmount's budget was drawn up before Montreal's passed. It had only accounted for an increase matching the inflation rate, as promised by Plante. 

'Unheard of'

Now, Smith says, Westmount has had to delay passing its budget to account the 6.7 per cent increase it's been slapped with. 

"It's unheard of," she said. 

Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein says his administration had foreseen not having a deficit before the Montreal budget was announced. It's now facing a $1.3 million shortfall. 

"We'll either have to cut in some areas or pass it on," Brownstein said, also on Daybreak. 

Both Brownstein and Smith are urging Plante to reconsider. Brownstein said revisiting a budget is not unheard of in Montreal. 

In 2006, former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay returned to the drawing board for the city's 2007 budget after widespread frustration in response to tax hikes.

Tremblay even issued a mea culpa.

City defends hike

In a statement sent to CBC, executive committee chair Benoit Dorais says the increase is due to a number of reasons: New collective agreements for police and firefighters, higher pension costs, as well as increased funding of public transit and water services.

Those are all shared services between the city and the demerged municipalities.

Dorais says he understands this will have consequences for those taxpayers but the city has chosen to invest in necessary projects now so it won't cost more in the future.

He also points out that while the demerged municipalities will pay 5.3 per cent more, the city's portion is also increasing by 6.8 per cent.

Increase in contributions to shared services by demerged municipalities

- Town of Mount Royal: 9.8%

- Montreal West: 9%

- Dorval Island: 7.1%

- Westmount: 6.7%

- Pointe Claire: 6.3%

- Baie D'Urfé: 5.7%

- Dollard-des-Ormeaux: 5.3%

- Beaconsfield: 5.2%

- Dorval: 4.2%

- Hampstead: 4%

- Senneville: 3.6%

- Côte Saint-Luc: 3.5%

- Montreal East: 3.2%

- Kirkland: 2.8%

- Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue: -7.4%