New year, no new budget yet

January 15, 2020

By Hunter Cresswell

 

The crowd of about 10 people in Heritage Hall on Jan. 13 didn’t seem impressed that Low council still hasn’t passed a 2020 budget.

“The public’s time was wasted,” Low resident Steve Connolly said in an email to The Low Down after the meeting.

Councillor Matt Orlando and Director General Pierre Gagnon were absent during the meeting.

Despite hosting two special budget sessions in late December – Dec. 19 and 30 – Mayor Carole Robert said Monday that she hopes to pass a budget before the end of this month.

“We had questions and our citizens had questions and we didn’t have answers, so it was pushed forward,” Robert said during the meeting when asked why the budget wasn’t passed yet.

“It was a 12 per cent tax hike with zero explanation on why we were at 12 per cent – everyone around us is going two, three, three-and-a-half per cent and here we are with 12, and zero explanation on why we were at 12,” Councillor Gyslain Robert added.

Last year, some citizens were outraged at the nine per cent tax increase.

“On the [December] 30th, we were pretty comfortable with what we had, but there were serious questions asked by citizens, and even council didn’t have the answer,” Mayor Robert said.

The budget is completed but is being verified by the municipality’s accountant now. The budget must be passed during a noticed council meeting, but no meeting has yet been scheduled.

During her mayor’s report, Robert said, “there wasn’t much” that happened during the month of December because of the holidays. She didn’t mention the budget meetings during her report.

But she did mention a change of hours at the Low CLSC. The hours on Thursday are changing from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., so patients should make sure to schedule future appointments on Thursdays within the new, later hours.

The council accepted, with Councillor Luc Thivierge casting the sole dissenting vote, the municipal spending from Nov. 22 to Dec. 21, including around $167,000 for regular expenditures, around $35,000 in salaries, and around $27,000 in recurring expenses.

During the “public security” section of the meeting agenda, council made some changes at the fire department. In December, council presented Low Fire Chief Michel Lemieux with a two-year contract and this week it made Councillor Robert Deputy Fire Chief. Councillor Robert abstained from voting on this item to avoid a conflict of interest. Other than his abstention, the vote passed unanimously. Council then unanimously hired Andrew Leslie as a firefighter.

During Councillor Maureen Rice’s report on the public safety committee, she mentioned that the municipality is gathering the cell numbers of residents so that they can be notified in near-real time in the case of an emergency. Residents can submit their contact information in person at Low town hall, by email to reception@lowquebec.ca, or calling 819-459-3528.

The next regular Low council meeting is scheduled on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in Low Heritage Hall.