For eight reconstituted West Island municipalities, proportionate shares of Montreal agglomeration expenses total just over $240 million.
For these municipalities, the agglomeration costs account for about 45 per cent to more than 60 per cent of their annual budgets.
Dorval, at $70 million, and Pointe-Claire, at about $59 million, pay the most of all 15 municipalities, a grouping that includes Dorval Island’s seasonal cottages and its $49,000 share. In total, these 15 suburbs will provide the agglomeration with just under $400 million of its $2.1-billion 2013 budget.
Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau said regional service costs in the post-demerger era have increased dramatically.
Before the forced mergers spearheaded by then municipal affairs minister Louise Harel, now a Montreal councillor, Dorval paid about $25 million to the MUC in 2001, Rouleau said, pointing out the only significant difference in service provisions is that the agglomeration has taken control of an island-wide fire department. Previously, suburbs had either run their own departments or shared with a neighbouring municipality.
The costs for regional services hit Beaconsfield hard in 2006, resulting in an average tax hike of more than 20 per cent, with some homeowners facing property tax increases of about 30 per cent. Since then, Beaconsfield’s agglomeration charges have risen annually, by about 14 per cent in 2010 and seven per cent the following year, but have not affected tax bills as dramatically partly because of diminished local taxes. In fact, despite a one per cent increase for the agglo portion of the average Beaconsfield tax bill this year, an almost three per cent reduction in local charges has resulted in a savings of about $30 from 2012 for the typical homeowner.
Two outstanding agglomeration issues are the double taxation on potable water facing West Islanders as well as the definition of what is downtown Montreal and why the reconstituted municipalities should subsidize infrastructure projects in that area, Beaconsfield Mayor David Pollock says.
“The footprint of what is centre-ville is too large,” he said. “We have to pay so much for that but Laval and Longueuil don’t have to.”
Pollock is hopeful Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum, will follow through on promises he made last month to deal with these outstanding fiscal matters.
Pollock added Montreal must also deal with the runaway costs associated with employee pension funds, including police and fire departments.
Under the agglomeration system, Montreal’s voting power, based on population, is set at about 87 per cent, while the reconstituted municipalities have 13 per cent.
Although the suburban representatives don’t have a chance to win any battles over contentious issues in the weighted agglomeration system, Rouleau said it’s important to attend meetings and make sure their opposition is officially recorded.
“If we don’t show up and vote against these items, it’ll seem to be unanimously approved,” he said.
“It’s also important to come ask questions and get some details. We’ve had some success getting Montreal to change regulations or bylaws,” he added.
Rouleau said the agglomeration is working better today compared with when it was initially created. “We’re getting more information now,” he said.
But it’s still 87 to 13. “Well, at least we make our points,” he said. “We don’t have the power to change anything. We have to talk them into changing their minds.”
What West Island towns contribute
Baie-d’Urfé: $11 million (61.4 per cent of $17.9-million budget for 2013)
Beaconsfield: $19.8 million (48.6 per cent of $40.8-million budget for 2013)
Dollard-des-Ormeaux: $39 million (50.2 per cent of $77.9-million budget for 2013)
Dorval: $70.4 million (59.6 per cent of $118.2-million budget for 2013)
Kirkland: $29.7 million (51.7 per cent of $57.4 million budget for 2013)
Pointe-Claire: $58.6 million (44.5 per cent of $131.7-million budget for 2013)
Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue: $9.6 million (54.3 per cent of $17.6-million budget for 2013) Senneville: $3.7 million (Local budget for 2013 not yet adopted. In 2012, its agglo quota was 73 per cent of expenditures.)
Montreal boroughs like Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Lachine and Île-Bizard/Ste-Geneviève don’t collect taxes but are given budget allotments from taxes paid to the central administration.
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