Reuel S. Amdur
The December 20 meeting of Chelsea Council was a sombre affaIr. It was the special meeting to adopt the 2024 budget, and it was a tough budget. Councillor Dominic Labrie set the tone in his comments. An increase of the tax rate to 6.3% while expenditures are being cut by a million dollars compared to last year. The 6.3% rate means a $308.50 on an average house. The cut in services is largely due to the National Capital Commission’s failure to make its payment in lieu of taxes in the amount determined by the MRC des Collines, a loss of $900,000. The NCC has failed to pay the amount set by the MRC since 2018. Chelsea is appealing the lower court decision supporting the NCC’s determination of the amount to pay.
Other pressures on the cost side of the ledger include the rate of inflation, which affects the cost of goods and services that the municipality must buy, the increase in interest rates affecting finances, and Chelsea’s share of the MRC’s operational costs. Councillor Kimberly Chan saw the tight budget situation as one that will continue well into the future.
Councillor Christopher Blais pointed to Chelsea’s challenge—densification while keeping Chelsea’s rural identity. (Good luck on that.) With densification there is more efficient use of municipal infrastructure, lower cost per person. He also said that the pressure is on Chelsea to pay its employees a rate competitive with other government entities. And cutting staff is not an option. Chelsea needs them.
In order to keep the tax rate at 6.3%, it has been necessary to make cuts, including various leisure activities, paper versions of Chelsea Express and guide to newcomers, library services during holidays, and road maintenance, among other things.
Mayor Pierre Guénard told the Post that council met 15 times to iron out the budget, before people went to work in the morning and late into the night. They were not happy with the result, but it was the best they could do. It passed unanimously.
Photo caption: Councillor Christopher Blais
Photo credit: Reuel S. Amdur