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Ongoing pillage smothering CDN-NDG

If the borough of CDN-NDG were a city, it would rank sixth in Quebec, after Montreal, Quebec City, Laval, Gatineau and Longueuil. It’s bigger than Sherbrooke, Saguenay, Lévis, Trois-Rivières and Terrebonne. Its population of about 170,000 people is higher than many entire regions like Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Northern Quebec or Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine. In addition, the borough is an important hub for over 5,000,000 people a year because of institutions like St. Joseph’s Oratory, hospitals, universities, colleges and the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery.

The four CDN-NDG mayoral candidates will continue to make promises to voters heading to the polls on Nov. 3: more transparency, the end of collusion, more street and sidewalk repairs, more social housing, more police for improved safety, better maintenance of parks and green spaces, increased budgets for culture, sports, recreation and garbage removal, as well as investments in commercial streets. However, they must also be able to pay for their promises. Good intentions are not enough. Our future elected officials need to secure adequate budgets. Are they up to the challenge?

Taxes have doubled in 10 years

At the last CDN-NDG council meeting our politicians discussed the property tax assessment hikes of 19 to 26% spread over the next three years.

  • Les Actualités has been condemning the chronic underfunding of the CDN-NDG borough by publishing dozens of articles on this subject since December 2001.
  • In the 2005 municipal election, mayoral candidates in CDN-NDG like Sonya Biddle (Vision Montreal) and Alexander Montagano (an independent candidate) campaigned on this issue against the incumbent mayor, Michael Applebaum.
  • During a budget meeting on Oct. 25, 2006, the borough council defied the City of Montreal by adopting a $69M budget, $4.7M more than what was allocated. Applebaum invoked article 143 of the Montreal Charter to request equalization adjustments and asked the City to follow through with its promise to increase funding for CDN-NDG. But a few days later Applebaum backed down following private meetings with then mayor Gérald Tremblay and Frank Zampino, then president of the executive committee. The borough ended up adopting the $64M budget allocated by the City.
  • During the 2009 municipal elections, the underfunding issue resurfaced in the platform and campaign of Louise Harel’s Vision Montreal.

In 2002, the year Michael Applebaum became borough mayor, taxes paid by tenants, homeowners and businesses added up to about $200M. In 2012 they skyrocketed according to our calculations to about $400M, double the amount.

In 2002 the assessed value of some 24,000 commercial and residential buildings in the borough, which serves as the basis for calculating property taxes paid by tenants, homeowners and businesses, stood at $7.3B. Ten years later, it reached $17.5B.

This makes CDN-NDG second only to Ville-Marie (downtown) as the richest borough in Montreal, with an assessed real estate value equal to Westmount, Town of Mount Royal and Outremont all put together.

This figure also means that the CDN-NDG borough pays the most property taxes on the island of Montreal next to the downtown borough. So where is all this money going?

In 2002 the central administration took two-thirds of the tax money to pay for municipal services (transportation, police, fire, water, debt, pension fund) and returned about a third to the boroughs for their expenses (snow removal, roads, parks, culture, sports and recreation, etc.). The borough’s share has been decreasing ever since. It shrank to 19.3% by 2005 and to 17.9% by 2012.

When you compare the boroughs’ budgets, the per capita discrepancy is blatant. In 2002 the Plateau Mont-Royal received $464 per resident, Saint-Léonard $728, Saint-Laurent $1,095, Dorval $1,905, and CDN-NDG only $328. The CDN-NDG borough, the biggest taxpayer, received the smallest slice of the pie, $53.9M instead of $66M. The borough was shortchanged by $12M.

In 2004 CDN-NDG’s share decreased further, solidifying its place at the bottom of the heap. The borough received $56.3M or $343 per resident, compared to the Plateau Mont-Royal $478, Saint-Léonard $522, Saint-Laurent $754 and Dorval $1,395. This iniquity is still going on, year after year.

Misinformation and equalization

Every year borough mayor Michael Applebaum took credit for improving the borough’s budget. In 10 years, from 2002 to 2012, it went from $53.9M to $68.5M, a $14.5M hike (27%). But Applebaum wasn’t telling the whole story. He didn’t mention that during this period the budget in Saint-Laurent for example increased by about 45%, while the taxes paid by CDN-NDG went from $200M to $400M (a 100% increase).

Pierre-Yves Melançon was the Côte-des-Neiges district councillor during the Jean Doré and Pierre Bourque City of Montreal administrations. In 2010, while working in research at the Université de Montréal, he published a study pointing out that the provincial law on city mergers adopted in 2001 was based on two principles: ensuring fiscal equity for an initial period of five years, then providing equivalent services for all boroughs. But, said Melançon, the minister of Municipal Affairs didn’t follow through in the application of the law, resulting in discrimination based on where you live.

The biggest loser is CDN-NDG. Shall we conclude that it is allowed to continue on the basis of racial discrimination?

Victor Afriat, publisher

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