From 5.4 to 3.6 per cent. That’s the new proposed tax increase in the United Counties of Prescott-Russell’s (UCPR) 2018 budget.
At its latest council meeting, Julie Ménard-Brault, the UCPR’s treasurer, presented a list of changes made to the budget after the mayors complained the initial proposed tax hike was too high.
Cuts and changes
As was mentioned in the UCPR’s first budget meeting, a grant to the Centre d’Accueil Roger-Séguin, and two transfers to reserves (one for Highway 17 widening and the other for the new Prescott-Russell Residence) were each slashed in half to $250,000.
Other cuts included paving at two municipal garages on Cassburn Road and in Embrun, totaling $60,000, as well as rescinding the UCPR’s membership to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, saving $13,000.
There were also two important additions: $65,000 for two crosswalks, and $40,000 for an operations review at the Prescott-Russell Residence.
One of the crosswalks would be in Vankleek Hill, the other in Alfred, costing $30,000 and $100,000 respectively. The total cost is shared 50/50 between the UCPR and the local municipalities, hence the $65,000 added to the budget. However, Marc Clermont, director of public works, said unless the municipalities also kick in their share for the crosswalks, they will not be built.
There was also a discussion about the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail, which led to the mayors calling a closed meeting. When they returned about five minutes later, they didn’t disclose what was discussed and no cuts were proposed. The current trail budget stands at $172,800 for next year.
“I find it’s still too high, it should go down more,” said Clarence-Rockland Mayor Guy Desjardins. Though when asked when by UCPR Warden if he had suggestions on where to cut, Desjardins replied with a single word, “No.”
Hawkesbury Mayor, Jeanne Charlebois, also voiced her opinion that the proposed tax hike was still too high, but she didn’t have any suggestions either as to where those cuts should be made.
Pierre Leroux, mayor of Russell, said he was “fine” with the budget, and that was echoed by Alfred-Plantagenet Mayor Fernand Dicaire.
That led to confusion among council as to whether it was giving its final approval, which was settled when UCPR’s CAO, Stéphane Parisien, stepped in.
“The plan right now is if you accept these revisions,” said Parisien. “We’re going to keep working on the budget, we’ve got two more weeks… we’re going to adopt at the end of November as per our schedule.”
In the previous budget discussion, Parisien had reminded the mayors that without their additions—like fire dispatch costs—the proposed tax hike would not be so high, something he brought to the fore once again.
“I just want to repeat, without adding anything we were at zero. We’re at 3.6 given what the members of council have asked us to put in the budget.”