Sutton mayor Robert Benoit and general director Pascal Smith presented the town’s 2022 budget and three-year infrastructure plan at a council meeting on Jan. 26. The meeting was held virtually and broadcast over the town’s YouTube channel.
Benoit presented a balanced budget totalling about $13.1 million, an increase of 9.4 per cent over the previous year’s budget. “Overall, expenses have increased by almost two million dollars. This reflects the necessary increase that the municipality needed to implement in order to serve a population of up to 8,000 people, including cottagers,” the municipality said in a statement.
As Benoit explained, the town’s operational costs are expected to rise this year, due mainly to inflation and rising fuel prices. The town’s Sûreté du Québec contribution will rise by 7 per cent and expected fuel costs by nearly 34 per cent. Payroll is expected to increase by 35 per cent, largely due to new hires. An expected surplus of $1.7 million will be used to balance the budget, although, as Smith observed, “this approach will have to be reviewed, as it is not sustainable in the short and medium term.” The existing debt repayment tax levied on property owners will rise from 7.4 cents per $100 of property value to 8.2 cents per $100 of property value.
Despite these cost increases and significant increases in the value of multiunit housing and agricultural property, property tax rates will remain at 2021 levels in accordance with a campaign promise made by Benoit, who was elected to his first term as mayor last October. “We said we would freeze the basic tax rate, and we’ve frozen the basic tax rate,” said Benoit. “We’ve talked a lot about the need for affordable housing and the need to [accommodate] retired people on fixed incomes; the cost of living has gone up, but the town has absorbed some of the rise in the cost of living, except for user fees.”
User fees for several town services are expected to rise significantly. The garbage collection fee will rise from $75 to $88, the recycling fee will jump from $5.90 to $44 as a result of the end of a provincial subsidy program and the compost collection fee will rise from $69 to $76. The sewer service fee will jump from $94 to $116. Water and septic tank emptying fees will remain the same. As a result, the tax bill of the average property owner will rise by about four per cent.
Benoit and Smith also presented the town’s three-year infrastructure plan, although Benoit emphasized that “the adoption of [the infrastructure plan] is not an authorization to spend nor a guarantee that a project will be realized,” and certain projects may require formal council approval and a referendum before going forward. Over half of the $7.85 million allocated to this year’s infrastructure plan is expected to be spent on road, sewer and water line maintenance, including major repairs to the north sector of Western Road, North Sutton Road, Draper, Schweizer and Vallée-Missisquoi, made possible by subsidies from the provincial government. Other major planned investments include the replacement of four vehicles, repairs to the town’s water treatment plant, repairs and improvements to Gagné Park and a new scoreboard for the town baseball field. The town has also earmarked $50,000 for a participatory budget initiative in the recreation sector, giving residents the opportunity to submit proposals for the use of those funds.
Benoit said he was “very pleased with this budget, which lays the foundation for our future actions and will allow us to considerably improve our capacity for sound management.”