2022 Municipal budget has been passed unanimously
– PRESS RELEASE –
The municipal council of the Town of Sutton held a special meeting on Wednesday, January 26, 2022 to adopt the first budget of its mandate. This exercise was particularly well prepared by the council and the administration which allowed for all involved to draw a clear and transparent picture of the town’s finances. The budget was adopted unanimously by the elected officials.
Staying true to its commitments
In order to provide taxpayers with an accurate picture of the entire budget, the council wanted to include all relevant and comparative data on the Town’s financial situation in its presentation. Foremost, the council has kept its election promise not to increase general property tax rates. This was done to avoid putting a strain on the budgets of those with lower incomes. Service rates have followed the normal cost inflation trends, however, neither water services nor septic tank emptying services have been increased.
The total amount for the 2022 budget for the Town of Sutton is $13,155,498, which is $1,134,570 (9.4%) more than last year. 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.
“I am 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,” commented Mayor Robert Benoît. “I wanted above all to compare our situation with neighbouring towns or towns of similar size, and this has reinforced my observation: our budget is right in the average, at around $15 million.”
Depending on the category, an average property ($341,407 in 2022) will see its tax bill increase in the village sector by 4.62% ($136.42), in the mountain sector by 4.85% ($139.85) and by 3.32% ($85.41) if there are no water and sewer services provided. These increases remain below the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which is an increase of 5.1%. In order to balance the budget without increasing general property taxes or passing on the cost of inflation, Town will draw on its surplus reserves to the tune of $1,561,424, for the current year. However, the mayor stressed that in the future this is not a viable option, as revenues must now cover expenses. “We will implement management ratios to rigorously control our budget and evaluate our capacity to carry out various projects,“ he announced. “We need to prepare for the impact of the next assessment roll which will be expected in 2023.” The Town intends to draft a financial policy that will, among other things, set the level of reserves around 25% of the budget, or the equivalent of three months of operating costs.
Major projects starting in 2022
In detailing the 2022 budget, Director General Pascal Smith explained the main reasons for the increases in expenses: “A large part of this is due to the $1.3 million increase in payroll, which is reflected in all budget items. This is due to the salary catch-up that occurred in the fall of 2021 when the terms and conditions of employment for municipal employees were renewed for five years. All of the additions to the budget are very positive elements that will improve our services to citizens. In particular, we have planned the implementation of measures to save drinking water, the addition of resources in urban planning and recreation, a new resource in environment, a budget for consultation and communication, an extension of the service contract of the S.P.A. des Cantons and a 5% increase in grants to NPOs.
Since the Town of Sutton’s debt level is well below the average for the MRC and Quebec, Council wishes to take advantage of this leverage and the low borrowing rates to promote the launch of several major projects as early as 2022. According to the 2022-2023-2024 Three-Year Capital Investment Program (PTI), major infrastructure work is planned to continue the efforts already accomplished in 2021. The main focus is on Western Street and North Sutton, Draper, Schweizer and Vallée-Missisquoi roads. Other major projects are planned for 2022, such as the improvement of municipal parks, the renovation of Gagné Park, a participatory budget, the purchase of bike racks, the implementation of software to improve services to citizens (e.g.: complaint management, online payments). “We have focused, for the moment, on the current year’s projects,” said the mayor, “but we want to develop a vision for the years to come that will guide us in matters such as urban planning, drinking water and our community facilities. From this vision will come several major long-term projects that we intend to finance on a user-payer basis.” In conclusion, the mayor thanked the entire administration team, especially the treasury department and the general management who worked very hard to prepare this budget. “Council is proud to be able to count on a competent and motivated municipal team to carry out all our projects. With our human resources already stretched to the limit, we will need to give them the means to meet the high ambitions we have for the town.”