For two years now, Westmounters have enjoyed a tax freeze. It’s what city council had hoped to do for a third year.
Instead, the three-per-cent hike Westmount adopted Thursday night has local politicians frustrated with Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.
The tax hike amounts to an extra $400 a year for the average Westmount family. The city had been set to pass its operating budget last week.
Plante’s budget, presented last week, surprised demerged cities by substantially increasing their share of the agglomeration budget. In Westmount’s case, the increase was 6.7 per cent or $3.5 million.
“That was nothing in the realm of what we were budgeting for,” said Westmount Mayor Christina Smith.
Smith says she reluctantly decided to raise Westmouners taxes. She says cutting services wasn’t an option.
She feels the burden is unfair on Westmont, and is surprised at Plante’s approach.
“It’s really contrary to the message that was sent (during the campaign), which was we are going to get control of our taxes. We never saw increases like this over the last four years. It was always below rate of inflation or at rate of inflation. It’s incredibly disappointing,” Smith said.
Business taxes in Westmount are also going up by 5.4 per cent. Tony Russo, owner of La Cucina Tony, says some in the area are worried.
“Some people talk. They are concerned when you are struggling and it hits you another few per cent,” Russo said.
Other cities on the island also had to revise their budgets. Montreal West passed its budget at the end of December, and had to repeal the new budget is coming down at the end of the month.
The mayor there blames Plante as well.
“She had the vibe that of doing things differently, so you had that little bit of an expectation and then you get crushed,” said Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella. “That’s the part that is disappointing.”
Smith says she and the other mayors from the demerged cities will continue to put pressure on Plante to revise her agglomeration budget.
WATCH BELOW: Montreal 2018 Budget