A Monday night meeting that was organized for the adoption of Rigaud’s 2020 budget turned into a shouting match between disenchanted residents and the city’s mayor, Hans Gruenwald Jr.
Angry residents oppose the budget’s 13.7 per cent tax hike and asked the city council to consider lowering it.
In what turned into a heated, three-hour back and forth, residents accused the city of overspending and mismanaging funds — some went further to demand an independent revision of the city’s administrative practices.
“The town hall is opaque,” said William Bradley, a member of Rigaud’s resident committee.
City officials defended the budget amid heavy criticism by the residents.
They explained that the hike was partly caused by inevitable spendings such as debt repayment and snow removal, which according to documents released by the city, cost $551 000 more than last year.
In past years, the officials said, the city has used part of its surplus to lower taxes — 3.5 per cent in 2018 and 6.2 per cent in 2019 — but this year, it had to use the surplus to cover additional spending, including flood relief, the purchase of a salt hangar and new asphalt.
The city hopes to develop new projects that will attract more workers and boost the economy. But residents deem the projects too ambitious and costly.
“We can’t get an explanation. It’s like we have no voice here,” Bradley said.
“We put our hands up, we ask questions, (but) we get stonewalled.”
The budget was adopted in a 4-2 vote at the end of Monday’s meeting — sparking uproar in an already indignant crowd.
“Shame on you!” one resident shouted. Others called for the mayor’s resignation.
Rigaud was badly hit by spring floods in recent years and a number of residents are still suffering from the repercussions.
On Monday, some discouraged residents said that they can no longer afford to live in the town and are considering selling their homes.
“If you still want a bit of money in your pockets, move out,” one resident told the crowd.