Saturday, July 13, 2024

Budget time across the Pontiac

Brett Thoms
Pontiac December 19, 2022

Municipalities across the MRC Pontiac have either passed or are preparing to pass their municipal budgets. With inflationary pressures on municipal and MRC services and the dramatic increase in assessment values in some municipalities due to a boom in real estate sales, many elected officials expressed that this year’s budget process required some difficult decisions. Here’s some takeaways from some of the municipalities that have passed a budget and spoken with THE EQUITY.

Chichester will see some of the highest tax increases of the municipalities THE EQUITY has spoken with. The municipality’s mill rate (the amount of tax payable per $100 of the assessed value of a property) is going from 70 cents per $100 to 73.5 cents. This increase occurred because the shares Chichester pays to the MRC have gone up around $40,000 from last year, according to Director General (DG) of Chichester, Alicia Jones.
The increase in shares owed to the MRC has caused the council of Chichester to pass a resolution, which among other things, disputes the used standardized assessment values used by the MRC when determining share rates and accuses the MRC budget as lacking transparency.
Jones explained the difference between the assessment value Chichester has on the books with standardized assessment value as the following:
“Our assessment value that we have on the books is what we’re allowed to charge our taxes on. But the MRC calculates our shares on standardized assessment value. Every year, there’s a factor that’s released by the Minister of Municipal Affairs to say how much your market value may have increased in the year. So Chichester’s market value factor was 1.53, which is 53 per cent higher [than Chichester’s assessment value on the books.] MRC uses the standardized value. So they take the total assessment volume times it by 1.5 and use that for their calculation. We’re bei,ng charged more than what we can collect.”
Chichester has, for the first time, broken down for its residents what tax money will go for municipal operations and what will go to the MRC, with 53 cents going towards the town’s general operations and 20.5 cents going towards the MRC.
The resolution passed by the municipality requests that the MRC provide:
“A clear and transparent breakdown of the 2023 budgeted revenues and expenses of the MRC Pontiac, with prior years comparables;
A clear justification for the increase to the shares to the local municipalities;
A revision of the way the shares are calculated with consideration for items other than merely the standardized assessment values; which could include, but are not limited to, population, number of dwellings and/or businesses, etc.;
An adoption of a new MRC Pontiac Bylaw regarding calculation of shares, prior to the adoption of the next Budget;
A formal process of consultation with the local municipalities prior to, and in preparation for, the adoption of the annual budget of the MRC Pontiac.”
It was also requested that this resolution be read at the public MRC Council of Mayors meeting on Dec. 21.
Chichester has also added a new tax of $110 per ratepayer for police service in the area.
Finally, the municipality used $83,000 of its surplus to balance the budget, leaving $120,000, according to Jones.
In terms of capital projects for Chichester, Jones mentioned repaying the municipalities 10 per cent share in the recent pavement of Nicabau Road, as well as continuing with the Chichester village waterfront project, which is funded entirely by grants.

Shawville will see a mill rate increase of 4 cents per rate payer in 2023, according to Shawville Mayor Bill McCleary. This means it will go from 79 cents to 83 cents per $100.

“Depending on the valuation of your house, a $100,000 house would go up $40 a year. A $200,000 house will go up $80 a year. So yeah, it’s significant,” said McCleary.
“Four cent increase in the mill rate brings us to about $60,000 which is peanuts in a $3 million budget but you have to keep up, you can’t keep your mill rate the same forever. And so that’s kind of a drastic increase, it’s usually 1 per cent or 2 per cent,” explained McCleary.
He also added that services charges for garbage, water and sewage were going up $20 each for a total of $60 for the year. The town also appropriated $305,586 to balance the budget.
McCleary said inflation has dramatically increased the cost of providing the basic services the town is required to by law to provide, which explains the tax increases.
The major capital project McCleary highlighted was the pumping station in the east end of town, which is mainly funded by gas tax revenue and some surplus.
You can find a budget summary for Shawville on page 7.

Another municipality to see their MRC shares increase was Clarendon, which was based on the increase in its relative property value assessment.
The mill rate in Clarendon has remained unchanged at 60 cents per $100, however the municipality used $274,728 of its surplus to balance the budget, according to Patricia Hobbs, the DG of Clarendon.
Major capital projects for the municipality centre around investing in road work, said Hobbs.
A more detailed budget document is being prepared for the municipality, which Hobbs said will be in a future edition of THE EQUITY.

Campbell’s Bay
In Campbell’s Bay, the mill rate is also increasing by 4 cents going from 68 cents to 72 cents per $100, according to Campbell’s Bay DG Sarah Bertrand.
Service charges have also been increased $157 from last year and an appropriation of $200,928 of the town’s surplus was also used to balance the budget, according to Bertand.
The town is investing $295, 500 in capital projects like the beginning of the process to construct a new firehall, the “improvement of the physical condition of the basic infrastructure,” and various improvements to the ice rink, among other things.

Waltham’s mill rate will increase by 1 cent per $100, according to Waltham’s DG Fernand Roy. In 2022 the rate was 71 cents and was raised to 72 cents this year. Roy said the increase was due to an unexpected increase in shares to the MRC Pontiac.
“We were able to cut some of our projected projects in order not to have such a big impact on taxpayers,” said Roy.
Roy said the budget also uses about $180,000 from the municipality’s surplus to cover the budget.
Roy said that grants are helping cover some of the major projects, they are spending close to $1,000,000 on road improvement and provision of compost bins to every resident in Waltham.
To give a sense of some increases municipalities have to deal with, the cost of snow plowing for the municipality went from $125,000 to $160,000 due to increased fuel and material costs, according to Roy.

L’Isle-aux-Allumettes will see a mill rate increase of 1 cent, at 56 cents per $100 of property assessment. The budget also appropriated $72,297 of surplus to balance the budget.
The municipality has two major capital projects this year, according to Alicia Jones, the DG of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes.
“We plan on completing our water and sewer replacement in the lower village of Chapeau,” said Jones. “That’s a grant that we got from the federal and provincial government a couple of years ago. And we’ll also be doing a lot of roadwork with a grant that we’re getting from the Ministry of Transport to the tune of about $2.2 million on roads.”
Jones said the municipality also expects to spend more surplus on the water and sewage replacement work in Chapeau.

Alleyn-et-Cawood will not see any mill rate increases this year despite having a fair amount of projects on the go. However all the projects the municipality is undertaking are being funded via grant money allowing the tax rate to stay stable, according to Alleyn-et-Cawood DG Isabelle Cardinal.
“We have an addition we’re doing to our municipal hall. So we’re adding office space, a new councillor meeting room and also a community gym on the bottom,” said Cardinal. “And we’re also working on developing our parks. So this year the splash pad was installed. We weren’t able to use it yet because it was finished late in the fall. So in the spring, it’s going to be working and we’re going to finish landscaping around it. And we want to add a soccer field, baseball field, tennis courts, and we have other projects too”.
Cardinal also announced that the municipality is no longer using a private contractor for snow removal but instead will handle the work themselves.

The mill rate has also gone unchanged in Rapides-des-Joachims, which will stay at $1.12 per $100, according to the DG, Alana Bowes.
Major capital projects include transfer site improvements, a new roof for the village’s townhall and a splash pad project.
THE EQUITY hopes to follow up more Pontiac municipal budgets in the new year.