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  • Madeline Kerr

Chelsea raises taxes 6.3%, makes $1 million in cuts

Chelsea’s 2024 budget demonstrates the harsh reality of the inflated cost of everything these days. 

In order to balance the $26 million budget, councillors have voted to make around $1 million in cuts while raising taxes by 6.3 per cent. 

According to a document released by the municipality in December, a 30 per cent increase in the cost of waste collection, a more than 10 per cent increase in the amount of money owed to the MRC, as well as an average interest rate more than five times higher than it was in 2021 are all straining the municipality’s finances. 

To balance spending, the municipality will stop funding certain projects and services, including H20 Well Water and recreational events like Magical Christmas, Chelsea Days and Musical Tuesdays. It will also decrease spending on community organizations – from $108,000 to $67,000 – and reduce certain road works. 

The median household will also see a bump of $308.50 in residential taxes this year. This is despite the fact that council opted to drop the mill rate by nearly 27 per cent for residential units because property values rose a historic 46 per cent, according to the MRC des Collines’ assessment released in October. The median value of a home in Chelsea is now $663,800, compared to $446,100 last year. 

In a statement, Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard wrote that the 2024 budget, which is his tenth as an elected official, was “certainly the most challenging.” 

“I understand the concerns about inflation affecting our economy, and I want to assure you that we have put mechanisms in place to minimize its impact on municipal finances,” Guénard wrote. 

Growth in costs outstrips ability to pay

For Coun. Dominic Labrie, who represents most of Chelsea’s centre village, this budget signals more than the impact of inflation – it’s a clear sign that the municipality’s approach to development has not been successful.

“The 2024 budget proves above all that development based on growth at all costs is a mirage, since the increase in public infrastructure costs required for development outstrips the growth in taxpayers’ ability to pay,” Labrie told the Low Down.

“Despite the increase in property wealth, Chelsea residents will be taxed more and receive fewer services than last year,” he continued, adding that, “the situation is all the more worrying given that several new residential projects are currently under study and could exacerbate the municipality’s structural deficit.” 

Labrie said that “there is nothing to cheer about” in the 2024 budget, pointing to the heavy debt load – nearly $52 million – and an increased need for infrastructure spending, which has forced council to cut some services and postpone commitments. 

Labrie added that he has been emphasizing the need to diversify revenue opportunities for the municipality since his election campaign in 2021. 

“Let’s face it,” he told the Low Down, “municipalities’ dependence on property tax as their main source of funding is the fundamental cause of our budgetary impasse.”

Chelsea is not alone in this regard, according to Labrie. He pointed out that Cantley, which increased taxes by nearly five per cent, made several cuts and put little towards investments in capital assets for 2024. Val-des-Monts, which has maintained services but increased taxes by almost 16 per cent, is in a similar situation.  Labrie said that he supports Chelsea’s 2024 budget, explaining that council succeeded in limiting the tax hike, which could have gone above 6.3 per cent, and made meaningful spending cuts, lowering the operating budget for most departments this year. He said he also feels that there is progress in the municipality’s willingness to diversify some of its revenue streams. 

“As you can imagine, the discussions weren’t easy: no one enters municipal politics to raise taxes and cut services!” Labre said, adding that, despite this, “a major effort was made to reach a consensus” among council. 

Another setback for revenue is what the municipality refers to as “the NCC situation.” 

Since 2018, the National Capital Commission has been contesting MRC property assessments and declining to pay the total amount of tax Chelsea says it’s due for services rendered in and around Gatineau Park.

“In 2024, the NCC shortfall will cost taxpayers nearly $900,000,” Chelsea’s budget document states.

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