Mayor's letter: 2020 Budget

Good news budget in Hampstead but shocking Agglomeration tax increase 

Thirteenth Year in a Row of Local Tax Increases below Inflation

 

Keeping local tax increases under control, year after year, is an achievement of which I am very proud, and I thank my colleagues on council and our very hard-working employees for their major contributions. However, what we have accomplished since getting our town back in 2006 is even more important.

While we inherited a sadly neglected infrastructure when Hampstead was demerged, we have since repaired much of it, including most of the roads, very many sidewalk sections, water mains and sewers. We have also introduced new programs and kept the Town safe, clean and have beautified over half of our green spaces. Yet, at the same time, we have been very frugal with our tax dollars.

Being fiscally responsible means not spending beyond our means. Over the last 12 years, local tax increases have been kept below inflation. The same is true this year. The average single-family homeowner will see a local tax increase of 1.89%. This is below the expected inflation rate for Montreal in 2020.

However, I am very unhappy with the outrageous and unfair Agglomeration tax increase of 8.7%. This is an increase of over four times the inflation rate and not one additional dollar will be spent by Montreal in Hampstead. We could have had a lower local tax increase if the referendum on the new development on Cote Saint-Luc Road had been approved because we would have gotten significant new tax revenue. Unfortunately for the town, it was not. Hence, the overall tax increase for the average single-family homeowner (local plus Agglomeration) will be 5.1%.

Hampstead is one of the most desirable communities in which to live, on the island of Montreal. As a result, over the 13 years since we demerged, our home values have climbed dramatically. New buyers, who demolish and rebuild or who make major renovations, have increased our tax base and this allows us to keep tax increases low while still improving the town.

Financial Highlights

1. Surpassing our target in 2019 – In a few months the external auditor will present the official Hampstead financial report. We will again have a large operating surplus. Several things contributed to the surplus. Costs related to water main breaks are now minimal due to our aggressive water main rehabilitation program. Both long term debt and debt service have decreased. Tight management of expenses is an additional factor.

2. The Hampstead 2020 Local Budget of $15,519,642 holds spending increases to 4.3% – Some of the Town’s expenses have increased by more than the rate of inflation because we are removing snow faster (more overtime), providing more events, such as the summer concert series, continuing our Beautification program and improving the services that are available on our web site, plus many other things.

3. Our accumulated surplus is expected to be over $5 million at the end of 2019.  We will use a maximum of $3 million to cover capital expenditures in 2020 and avoid taking on unnecessary new debt. The town remains in very good shape financially.

4. Continued decreases in long term debt. Long term debt (net of grants) was $5.46 million at the end of 2019. This is a very significant 57% decrease in the last 8 years.

Key Initiatives for 2020
 
- Since we no longer have any water mains to rehabilitate, and the rest of our infrastructure is possibly the best on the island, we do not need to spend as much as we have in the past. Nevertheless, to maintain this enviable situation we will spend about $3 million on various capital projects over the next year. It should be noted than some of this spending will come from grants. On account of the grants, the Park Fund (which is paid only by those who demolish houses) and our excess surplus, no new debt will be required. The above does NOT include spending for a new Recreation Centre. If CSL Road is redeveloped, we will likely have the money for this and much more.

- Smart City - We will continue to add features to My.Hampstead, our online interactive service, both to save money and to make it easier for the town to provide service rapidly.

- Prudent financial management – We will continue to keep our controllable costs below inflation through prudent spending and cost-management strategies. 

- Core services – As always, we will continue to keep our town clean, attractive and safe.

- Programming and community services – We will maintain high quality programs, and we hope to have a ten-concert series in Hampstead Park this summer.

- And most importantly, we will continue to prioritize Open and Frequent Communication, to ensure that our residents are informed and involved in our many Town initiatives.

As always, if you have any comments or questions, 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.


Dr. Bill Steinberg,

Mayor, Town of Hampstead