Looking back, Moving forward

2015-03-01

Some of you may recognize our Centennial year slogan and many can attest that the Town has grown a lot over the past 100 years. As 2015 marks my tenth year as Hampstead’s mayor, it is an appropriate time to review what we have accomplished since the 2006 demerger and where we hope to go in the coming years.

Our finances are rock solid but there are challenges. For the last eight years we have had local tax increases below inflation and it is my commitment to continue that policy for as long as I am your Mayor.

Our debt and debt service costs have dropped by about one third since 2009. Our infrastructure is much better than it was in 2006 and so maintenance costs for fixing pot holes and water main breaks have decreased.

However, Hampstead has almost no vacant land to develop, no high rises, and no commercial or industrial properties. We are the only 100% residential town on the island so our tax revenue is limited. Further, residents rightly expect top-notch services and a beautiful, well-maintained town. It all costs money, but I believe we can deliver while living within our means.

In 2007, we were the only town on the island to take an interest-free loan from the Quebec government for lowering Agglomeration taxes and turned it into a loan for infrastructure. The result was an estimated saving of $3.3 million and a jump start on fixing our long neglected infrastructure.

Last mandate we sold the fire station property for $5.5 million and have since collected another $1 million penalty when it was not developed on time. While the residents in the area and market forces have put the development of the land in limbo for now, I have no doubt that it will be developed over the coming years.

Last year, we raised our Park Tax from 1% to 10% which is what most towns charge. This new tax only affects those who demolish a home (including major renovations which involve demolishing over 50% of the house). This measure will result in hundreds of thousands of extra revenue annually which must be used exclusively for improving parks and/or beautification of our green spaces.

Beautification, more infrastructure work, better resident service and more

Over the past few years, we have greatly improved the Fleet and Queen Mary medians, Councillors (Gayton) park, and several other green spaces. The additional Park Tax revenue will accelerate the beautification of our green spaces. Applewood Park is being significantly upgraded this year with new plantations and new playground equipment. The tennis courts will get a new clubhouse and there will be further green space enhancements.

We have already rehabilitated 26% of our water mains, possibly the best record on the island, but several more will be done in 2015 with two thirds financed by grants. There will also be work on roads, sidewalks and street lighting this year and every year for the rest of this mandate.

Fast and courteous resident service is also a priority that has and will continue to have my full attention. To this end, our dedicated Client Service specialist, Anne Roy, will support our front line employees in providing you with timely service.

Our Centennial year was a huge success with residents and visitors from across the island enjoying many of the events and especially the parade and show last September. The councillors and I have noted what was most popular and we have ideas on improving our regular schedule of events as a result of what we learned. There will be more details in the coming months.

If you have any comments or questions on this topic or anything else related to Hampstead, please e-mail me at wsteinberg@hampstead.qc.ca or call me 7 days a week until midnight at my home office (514) 483-6954.


Sincerely,


Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead