Suburban cities financial burden makes no sense: Masella

Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella, second from left, at an late 2018 Association of Suburban Municipalities press conference.

The financial burden borne by Montreal’s demerged municipalities for central city services makes no sense, Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella told the late November town council meeting.

Masella is also head of the Association of Suburban Municipalities, representing the demerged island of Montreal municipalities.

Masella, as part of his monthly Mayor’s report, pointed out that while the 2020 Montreal budget “may seem reasonable, there are substantial reasons why the Association of Suburban Municipalities are not supportive of it.

“In August 2018, after a disastrous budget in December 2017, the City of Montreal made a commitment to have the demerged towns be involved much earlier in the budget process,” he said. “Furthermore, they committed to work with us to revisit the method used to split the costs for shared services.”

Masella said his group “formed a committee of political and administrative people to define a series of proposals to Montreal on ways to more equitably share costs within the agglomeration.

“On Feb. 26, 2019, we deposited to Montreal a series of four proposals to lessen the dependence on sharing costs based strictly on property evaluation. Our proposals looked at costs of potable water supply, costs of sending material to the landfill, costs associated with public security and costs associated with public transportation. In short, we wanted to move more towards user-pay for these services.”

The Mayor added that since 2009, “residents of the demerged towns have paid 62 percent more for Agglo services than residents of Montreal.

“That does not make sense!” he emphasized. “There is no reason why a home with higher value should pay more for water than a home with a lower value. In fact, our proposals were inspired by cost-sharing formulas already in place across the province. Montreal outright refused to consider our proposals. After more discussion and to try and get them to the negotiating table, all without fruit, we addressed our concerns with the Minister of Municipal Affairs. In September 2019, we met with and asked the Minister to force Montreal to the table and to assign a mediator to accompany us during the negotiation.”

But, said Masella, the 2020 budget is “more of the same.

“We were not consulted in any substantive matter. And, more worrisome, they used the same formula to share the costs. Towns with large relative increases in their property values find themselves with a bill from the Agglo that is eight to 10 percent higher than last year while other towns are benefitting from a decrease in their bill. It clearly demonstrates the folly and inequity of this system. The towns with the huge increase are not receiving a penny more in resources or service from the agglomeration.”

During the council meeting, one resident asked if the municipalities had any legal recourse, saying the situation is “taxation without representation."

“You’re 100 percent right, and I’m going to go one step further,” the Mayor responded. “They (the City of Montreal) represent 87 percent of the population, yet they pay only 82 percent of the bill. But what they’re doing is completely legal, so what we’re doing is we have to try and get the rules changed.”

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