Cote Saint-Luc adopts 2017 budget: City spending stays flat, average residential property tax increase of 1.9 percent

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The City of Côte Saint-Luc adopted an operating budget for 2017 that kept spending flat and the property tax at at 1.9% percent for an average single-family home in the city. This is in line with the Conference Board of Canada inflation rate forecast for the greater Montreal region.

“We do our very best to keep property taxes as low as possible,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said. “It was a challenging exercise this year given the higher than expected bill we received from Agglomeration of Montreal, the island-wide government.”

The Côte Saint-Luc City Council adopted the $68 million operating budget on December 12, 2016. About 42 percent of all taxes collected by Côte Saint-Luc are transferred to the Agglomeration of Montreal, which funds services such as police, fire, and public transit.

The property tax bills will be sent to homes by the last week of January. The deadline to pay property taxes has been set at February 27 for the first installment and May 29 for the second installment.

“The Council and senior staff worked very hard to balance our budget and to minimize any property tax increases for our residents,” said Councillor Steven Erdelyi, the council member responsible for finances.

Budget and tax highlights include the following:
  • Average increase in taxes for single-family home valued at $584,600: 1.9 percent (or $121)

  • 52 percent of single-family homes and condos will see a reduction in taxes

  • Increase in revenues from taxation: 3 percent

  • Revenues from property taxes: 87.7 percent

  • Revenues from compensation in lieu of taxes: 1.9 percent

  • Other revenues (eg, program fees, memberships, etc.): 10.3 percent

The three-year capital expenditures plan was also adopted on December 12. Approximately $14 million in capital expenses is anticipated in 2017. It will be used for projects such as water and sewer rehabilitation and repairs, renovations to the outdoor municipal pool, underpasses, improvements of facilities and parks and updating the aging vehicles in the municipal fleet.

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CSL Public Library is still an oasis

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Nearly every day I am reminded that we, Cote Saint-Luc residents, are so fortunate to live in one of the best cities. The drive to maintain this stature and to constantly strive to make improvements, large and small, is a primary focus of the City Council and Administration. Afterall, a responsible administration should be motivated by continuous quality improvement in order to provide excellent services and experiences to its citizenry. It should engage in management techniques to ensure that taxpayers are receiving a strong return on their investment. These dividends are paid out in recreational, leisure, sports and cultural offerings – baseball fields, tennis courts, arenas, pools, parks and libraries. It is the first responder that rushes to your home when someone falls ill. It is a smooth and clean street, it’s the employee who picks up your garbage and recycling and it’s efficient snow removal. It is the full civic gamut of facilities, infrastructure, services and personnel.

 

We live in a society with finite resources. We make choices every day as to where to allocate our limited funds. It would be easy to wave a magic wand and spend like there’s no tomorrow, currying favour with each interest group: the baseball players, the swimmers, the skaters, those who stroll in the park, those who never recycle or compost and much prefer twice-a-week garbage pickup, the kid next door who’d rather leave his car in front of your house all night long and the library patron who’d like the facility to stay open late every night even though very few others may be around at those hours.

 

These idealistic exaggerations are very real. City Councils are faced with such decisions daily: how to please most constituents, most of the time, at the lowest cost possible? And such is the reality in Cote Saint-Luc departments and programs, including the Public Library. Traditionally open twelve hours each and every day of the year this gem of an institution cost taxpayers nearly three million dollars in 2015. Faced with the reality of administering a $67 million municipal budget, the need to protect our aging infrastructure, respecting the elderly homeowner living on a fixed budget with diminishing personal investments and the annual exercise to keep any tax increase in line with the rate of inflation, all directors are tasked with reviewing each budget line.

 

In preparing for the 2016 budget for our city the library came up with about $250,000 in compressions. Half of this, about $125,000, is directly attributed to shortening the hours of operation during very quiet periods on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Our counts show that as few as 10-15 patrons are typically present in the later hours. Therefore, we agreed to close at 6:00 p.m. on the weekend. The unfortunate reality is that such decisions also affect employees, in this case 10 on-call auxiliary staff.

 

The library continues to stay open to 10:00 p.m. on all other nights, longer hours than all other public libraries on the Island of Montreal. We stay open throughout the holidays when many others close completely. We are literally open 24 hours a day with our virtual library of downloadable books and magazines. Our Library Lounge at the Aquatic and Community Centre will remain open seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. most nights, as a place to read and relax, to pick up and drop off a book for free.

 

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this incredible public library, I am reminded of my many visits to its original location upstairs at the Cote Saint-Luc Shopping Centre and to hundreds of other visits through the years. It is a place that has and will continue to make Cote Saint-Luc the envy of many other residents across the region and still is an oasis for its thousands of patrons.

 

Glenn J. Nashen

Acting Mayor

Cote Saint-Luc

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Read more:

Readers incensed over reduced library hours (Montreal Gazette, Dec. 24, 2015))

For decades, Côte-St-Luc’s public library has been the envy of Montreal residents because of its numerous services and famously long opening hours — its doors are open 365 days of the year, 12 hours a day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the exception of holidays when the opening hours are shortened. It is free of charge to Côte-St-Luc residents.

ALLEN MCINNIS/MONTREAL GAZETTEThe Eleanor London Library is “a sanctuary from the madness of the streets,” one supporter wrote.But starting Jan. 5, the municipality has decided to close the library at 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, saying few people use it then and the city needs to trim its budgets to offset escalating costs.

The changes are not going over well with some in the community who fear it will lead to further cuts. The outcry there echoes dissatisfaction voiced elsewhere in Montreal about limited library hours, particularly during the holidays.

“To its patrons (the Eleanor London Library) was, and is, far more than a library,” wrote Côte-St-Luc resident Sharon Zajdman in an open letter to the community. “It is an oasis and a sanctuary from the madness of the streets. For those with nowhere to go and no family to be with, especially at holiday time, the library is a lifeline.”

In several Montreal boroughs, municipal libraries are closed for the majority of the holidays, starting Dec. 24 and running until Jan. 2. All four libraries of the city’s most populous borough, Côte-desNeiges — Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, home to 165,000 residents, will be closed for eight of 10 days during the holidays, shutting from Dec. 24 to 28 and again from Dec. 30 to Jan. 2.

“This is a time of year when children and their parents can take full advantage of our public community libraries,” a borough resident who asked not to be named wrote in a letter to the Montreal Gazette. “Libraries also provide a valuable community resource open for the elderly and isolated adults who don’t have a family to share the holidays with.”

The borough has closed its libraries for most of the holidays for the last few years to allow staff time off during a period when the libraries are less utilized, said Sophie Paquet, a communications officer for the borough. She suggested there are other city-run resources, like the Biodôme and the planetarium open during the holidays, for citizens to use.

Cutting evening hours at CôteSt-Luc’s library will save the municipality $125,000 a year, by reducing the work hours of 10 on-call auxiliary workers, interim mayor Glenn J. Nashen said. In total, the city is looking at cutting $200,000 to $300,000 from the library budget, in part by laying off staff members in 2016.

“We are looking to trim our budgets wherever possible to keep our taxes in check,” without sacrificing services to citizens, Nashen said. “After 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, there are only about 10 people left in the library. I think there are still a lot of positives there. We are open more than virtually any library in Montreal, 365 days a year, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday.”

Nashen said he and his city councillors have received only six complaints about the reduced hours from citizens. With a limited tax base and limited resources, the city is looking at every department to find savings, he said.

Zajdman said the city should find others areas in which to cut costs, such as to its $18-million aquatic centre instead of a beloved cultural institution that will turn 50 in 2016.

“We get that you need to save money, but why here, where are your values,” she said.

“Don’t do it at the expense of our library. Don’t play with our money …

“You either rescue the library or you lose my vote.”

Côte-St-Luc is holding a byelection in early April to elect a new mayor to replace Anthony Housefather, who was elected as a member of Parliament for Mount Royal in the October federal election.

Online comment by Shirley Nadell:

The Eleanor London Library is a gem! If the City needs to save some funds to perpetuate the wonderful services it provides then that decision must be made.

I think the judgement to reduce library accessibility for but 12 hours in an 84 hour week is both reasonable and acceptable. The determination of the closings at 6pm (instead of 10pm) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the evenings which have the least number of citizens in attendance, will provide substantial savings.

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Letters: Cutting CSL Library hours is fine (Montreal Gazette, Dec. 26, 2015)

Re: “Readers incensed over reduced library hours” (Montreal Gazette, Dec. 24)

I beg to disagree with those complaining about the reduced hours at Eleanor London Côte-St-Luc Public Library. The services we are getting at this library are beyond efficient — they are extraordinary — with a huge range of reading at one’s disposal.

I believe that keeping the doors open until 10 p.m. daily is unnecessary, as a significant percentage of the inhabitants of Côte-St-Luc are elderly and not given to gallivanting at night.

Daytime is perfectly sufficient, and yes, if that helps to cut costs, why not?

Selma Menezes, Côte-St-Luc

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Open letter to CSL: “Save the Eleanor London Library”

  • By Sharon Zajdman, Special to The Suburban, Dec 23, 2015
  • 0

I am a Cote St. Luc resident and a patron of its library. This week I was shocked and dismayed to discover that, not only will hours during the upcoming holidays be truncated, but also, beginning January 5, evening hours for half the week will be permanently axed, and several services are being eliminated. When I inquired further, I learned that staff members have been “terminated” without warning—a week before Christmas. Their duties will be divided among library employees who have survived the purge, and will now have to work harder, while receiving less.

For many years this borough was blessed with a great mayor. His ambitions reached beyond this neighbourhood so, unselfishly, his constituents gave him what he wanted, and voted him into Parliament. That was two months ago. A good deed never goes unpunished. It appears we are now being led by a rudderless bunch of bean counters whose first official independent act has been to attack our library.

The Eleanor London Library is a 50-year-old institution that began life in an upstairs corner of the Cote St. Luc shopping center. It was called The Cote St. Luc Library, then. It was the visionary librarian Eleanor London who nurtured and steered a tiny establishment into a treasure chest of literature, film, music, and cultural programming. The Eleanor London Library developed into the envy of every other borough. It was open 12 hours a day, seven days of the week, for every single day of the year. To its patrons it was, and is, far more than a library. It is an oasis and a sanctuary from the madness of the streets. For those with nowhere to go and no family to be with, especially at holiday time, the library is a lifeline.

Ten years ago, when Montreal’s City Hall forced its boroughs to merge while simultaneously axing a $300,000 dollar grant to the Eleanor London, library patrons were offered a choice; accept truncated hours and lose programs, or accept new fees. Without hesitation nor resentment, patrons opted to pay out of pocket in order to keep the library open and running fully and full-time.

In the past five years, while library patrons continued to pay for what had once been subsidized, and library hours were cut on legal holidays anyway, a $22 million dollar state-of-the-art community and aquatic center was built, opened, and has been maintained.

Cote St. Luc is a financially comfortable neighbourhood. While the rest of this province descended into Comic Opera Land, there were still signs of intelligent life in this neighbourhood. They seem to be disappearing. Firing employees a week before Christmas is the act of a ruthless and brutal factory owner, not the action of a civilized suburban administration. Gouging the guts out of a cultural institution that has proven itself a beacon of light in the darkness is the act of philistines. A cultured community is a civilized community.

I ask Cote St. Luc residents who care about culture and the civility it represents to contact City Hall and make their voices heard. If fighting for our values cannot reverse this cynical decision, then I urge the community to purge City Hall in the same manner as City Hall has purged our library, and vote the current administration out of office.

editor@thesuburban.com

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A reality check on the CSL library

I have just read the open letter from Sharon Zajdman and would take this opportunity to spell out a few facts of life for her.

The Cote Saint-Luc Library stands out among city libraries and it is supported almost entirely by taxpayers as a place to borrow and obtain books, records and films for use in our homes. And even after what I feel are minor changes, the Library is an example of a prime service.

Every so often, as is the case in most well-administered communities, services must be reviewed and updates implemented as necessary.

For those of us who use the library, and I take out an average of 3 books a week when in Cote Saint Luc, the cutting off of a few hours on week-ends, particularly in the evening when very few citizens but many staff could be found on hand, the decision to curtail some hours was no surprise. I would have thought it should have been done several years ago.

Ms. Zajdman feels that the library is for people with nowhere to go. That is not the object of a library. Regretably, there may be the odd person who has spent the week-end evening sitting around at the library, but at what cost?

Additionally, Ms. Zajdman errs when she refers to the A.C.C. as having cost $22 million when in fact the total was less than $17 million, of which the City paid only one-third.

If a person has nowhere to go on Saturday or Sunday evening, he/she could always go to the A.C.C. to sit around in the unattended library reading room there, or maybe catch swimmers or basketball players in action.

As for those who have been laid off, yes, it is unfortunate and the timing might not be the best, but they were temporary workers and had to know there was always the possibility that their positions would be eliminated.

I have made some inquiries and learned that the anticipated saving is about a quarter of a million dollars and that other necessary compressions have also taken place in other municipal government areas. Hopefully none should adversely affect the terrific public service rendered by Cote Saint-Luc’s managers, staff and elected officials.

At a time when many costs are rising and revenues are not necessarily keeping up with the times, even with some cuts, a mild increase in our property taxes had to be implemented.

Would Ms. Zajdman have preferred that all our residents pay more in their property taxes instead of acting responsibly as they did?

Sidney Margles

CSL

 

 

Côte Saint-Luc adopts 2016 budget: city spending stays flat, average residential property tax increase of 2.3 percent

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The City of Côte Saint-Luc has adopted an operating budget for 2016 that kept spending flat and saw the property tax of 2.3 percent for an average single-family home in the city, which is in line with what the Conference Board of Canada has forecast as the inflation rate for the greater Montreal region.
“We made every effort to keep property taxes as low as possible while maintaining the highest quality services,” Acting Mayor Glenn J. Nashen said. “We continue to operate as efficiently as possible to help ensure that Côte Saint-Luc remains to be one of the best places to live.”
The Côte Saint-Luc City Council adopted the $67 million operating budget on December 14, 2015. About 42 percent of all taxes collected by Côte Saint-Luc are transferred to the Agglomeration of Montreal, which is the island-wide regional government that funds services such as police, fire, and public transit.
The property tax bills will be sent to homes by the last week of January. The deadline to pay property taxes has been set at February 26 for the first installment and May 27 for the second installment.
“We understand that the public entrusts us with their money and we take that responsibility seriously,” said Councillor Steven Erdelyi, the council member responsible for finances. “As the father of two young children, my family uses many of our municipal services. I’m keenly aware of how important they are to our residents, while also understanding the need to keep property taxes as low as possible.”
Budget and tax highlights include the following:
  • Average increase in taxes for single-family home valued at $572,300: 2.3 percent (or $142)
  • Decrease in water, residential and non-residential tax rates
  • Increase in revenues from taxation: 2.39 percent
  • Revenues from property taxes: 86.7 percent
  • Revenues from compensation in lieu of taxes: 1.9 percent
  • Other revenues (eg, program fees, memberships, etc.): 11.2 percent
The three-year capital expenditures plan was also adopted on December 14. Approximately $10.5 million in capital expenses is anticipated in 2016. It will be used for projects such as enhancements to Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park, improvements and repairs to the Westminster and Cavendish underpasses, repairs to municipal buildings including the Bernard Lang Civic Centre building envelope, repairs to roads and sidewalks and more.

CSL budgets modest tax increase

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At last night’s public meeting, Côte Saint-Luc City Council adopted its 2013 budget for local and agglomeration operating expenses.  An average single family home (valued at $470,000) will see a modest increase of $78 in taxes or 1.32 percent, well below the rate of inflation.

The total budget amounts to $65M which breaks down as $37M in local costs and $28M in island wide agglomeration costs.

The City will continue to invest in critical infrastructure (water distribution network, roads, sidewalks, etc.) as well as in rejuvenating its oldest park equipment.

As Councillor responsible for Public Safety I am quite pleased that the city will continue its important investments in this area ensuring top quality volunteer EMS response, the steady expansion of the volunteer Citizens on Patrol as well as Public Security, Emergency Communications and Emergency Preparedness.

Also, the CSL Cycles program will continue to roll out with new bike lanes stretching from Cavendish, along Baily toward the Cote Saint-Luc Shopping Centre, to tie in to the NDG network running up West Broadway.  A new lane will also be painted along Kildare Road from Westminster to Shalom and through Ruth Kovac Park to reach the Cavendish Mall.

Unfortunately, Cote Saint-Luc is obliged to spend about half-a-million dollars on the Montreal Metropolitan Community, an added level of regional government for which we have very little input and see very questionable results.  I concur with the Gazette’s civic affairs columnist Henry Aubin who has argued for years that the Montreal region is overburdened with layers of bureaucracy from multiple transit authorities, government departments and agencies, all adding to our tax burden at one level or another.

Fortunately, with the municipal demergers in 2005, Cote Saint-Luc controls well over half its local taxes and sets priorities locally on services closest to the resident.

Here is a detailed copy of the CSL 2013 budget presentation.

CSL adopts 2012 budget

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CSL expects surplus at end of year

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CSL expects surplus at end of year

By Joel Goldenberg

The Suburban

December 1, 2010

Côte St. Luc is expecting a surplus by the end of 2010, based on results from the third quarter of its financial year, Mayor Anthony Housefather said in his annual report on the city’s finances.

Housefather said the city would keep close control over expenses while still providing a high quality of service.

“The actual operating revenues are expected to be slightly above our budget at the end of the year based on the third quarter results,” the mayor said. “This is due mainly to municipal taxes yielding slightly more money than budgeted and a higher level than expected of non-recurring interest income from late and overdue taxes.”

Housefather added that operating expenses are within budget, also according to third quarter results.

The report also said Côte St. Luc had some cost increases because of changes in the payment of vacations, sick days and overtime for employees.

“However, due to better overall efficiency and cash-flow management, the city has also experienced some savings in various areas such as snow clearing operations which offset these costs,” Housefather said, referring to the relatively light snowfall last winter.

The report adds that plans for the 2011 budget include:

• A balance between revenues and expenditures.

• That property taxes do not increase beyond the rate of inflation.

“However, it is important to note that the city does not control the spending of the regional level of government and if the agglomeration of Montreal increases its expenditures in a manner that exceeds the rate of inflation, this objective may not be attainable as relates to the portion of the city budget that pays the pro rated share of island services,” the report says. “The city, together with the other demerged municipalities on the island, has worked hard in 2010 to convince the city of Montreal that the spending of the agglomeration of Montreal needs to be restrained and we are anticipating a reasonable agglomeration budget this year.”

• Ensuring long-term financial viability of the city.

• Ensure that the cost of debt service does not exceed 15 percent of the overall local operating budget.

• Paying particular attention to the establishment of the Aquatic and Community Centre’s first operating budget.

(Housefather announced during the meeting that the Intergenerational Aquatic Centre’s name has been changed to the Aquatic and Community Centre).

“We will continue to run the city like a business, focusing on waste management programs, improvements in our water infrastructure system, and providing innovative recreational and cultural programs that suit the needs of city residents,” the mayor said.