Financial situation

Mayor's Speech on Gatineau's Financial Position at the Municipal Council Meeting on October 3, 2017

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Gatineau is in a Solid Financial Position

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen,

The October meeting of the Municipal Council has traditionally been the one at which the Cities and Towns Act has required that we table a report on Gatineau's financial position. For the past few years, we have argued that we should be exempted from this requirement, given that it dates back to a time when cities were not as transparent as they are now. With four days of public budget discussions, Gatineau is already doing far more than most cities in Quebec in that regard. We are happy to announce that legislative amendments concerning municipal autonomy were passed this summer, rendering this statutory requirement obsolete.

We decided to maintain the practice this fall so that the next municipal council could decide how it would like to proceed.

After four budgets adopted by this municipal council, I am very proud of the key changes made to our procedures. We prepared a long list of strategic budget choices, streamlined our priorities in regard to infrastructure maintenance, pared down the list of projects underway, and adopted a clear implementation plan against which we can now report.

Gatineau puts a great deal of energy into preparing municipal budgets. This invaluable collaborative effort involves the Executive Committee, the Comité des immobilisations et du budget, and the Commission de révision des dépenses et des services. The exercise culminates with the whole Municipal Council during the budget review week in November.

Last December, we adopted a $577.8M balanced budget. In 2017, we managed to limit expenditure increases to 2.3%. This means that with the regular increase in current spending due to inflation, our total expenses barely exceeded the increase in the 1.9% Bank of Canada target consumer price index. In fact, in 2017 we recorded the smallest expenditure increase since the municipal merger, which came to 6% in 2012.

One of the tools that enabled us to better control our spending was the Commission de révision des dépenses et des services. The members of that Commission, supported by the municipal council and municipal employees, work on finding the most effective means of balancing the budget by reviewing our procedures and proposing ways to save.

The Commission's goal was to identify a total of $15M in annual savings by 2018. We knew that we were already ahead in meeting that goal, and I am happy to announce that we officially reached the $15M target that we had set for 2018. That is excellent news.

We work with our employees on optimizing our procedures, and I am convinced that this is the most sustainable way of achieving savings.

Last March, as we were updating the organizational diagnostic, Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton commented about the “outstanding” improvements achieved. So we are on the right track.

All of this work has but one purpose: to properly run our municipality and better serve our residents.

This calls for clear plans and solid objectives.

To that end, we decided to prioritize a certain number of projects:

  • introduce a safety plan for school corridors ($80,000); and
  • invest more than $400,000 in cultural and recreational initiatives, including:
    • implementing an events strategy ($150,000);
    • expanding the Aurélien-Doucet library ($145,000);
    • setting up artist workshops ($105,000); and
    • adjusting the outdoor skating rink deployment plan ($17,000).

The 2017-2021 investment program was also developed while taking into consideration the Municipal Council's priorities set out in the 2014-2017 action plan, namely:

  • massive and strategic investments in infrastructures, including increases to the paving envelope;
  • investments in community housing;
  • focusing on alternative transportation – bike paths; and
  • continuing to tap into every possible financial assistance opportunity offered by the provincial and federal governments for infrastructures and social housing.

That program provides for record investments in the order of $373.9 M over three years, including $126M for 2017, in particular for

  • roads: $23.8M;
  • water supply and sewer systems: $34.9M;
  • water and wastewater treatment plants: $24.9M;
  • buildings: $6.7M;
  • parks and green spaces: $3.3M;
  • social housing and the residential renovation program: $3.3M;
  • active transportation: $4.5M.

Over the past four years, we also decided to maintain a dedicated 1% tax for infrastructure catch-up.  This fund was set up in 2012, and to date has enabled us to invest $81M. Those investments have helped us carry out hundreds of street, sidewalk, and water supply and sewer system repairs.

Some Gatineau sectors are facing issues with water discoloration. Over the next few years, thanks to the dedicated infrastructure tax, we will spend $53M to address that important issue.

We are also pursuing the strategy to increase the road repair envelope adopted in 2015.

We are continuing to implement the major intervention plans for the rue Notre-Dame ($19.3M) and boulevard Saint-Joseph ($42.6M) commercial arteries. Those initiatives meet a real need, and have been eagerly anticipated by merchants and residents. We took the time to consult them on boulevard Saint-Joseph, and will do the same for rue Notre-Dame.

Our strategy is to tap into every possible provincial and federal subsidy program for infrastructures and social housing. From 2007 to 2017, those subsidies came to $279M. Those amounts enabled us to invest $397M in water supply and sewer systems, water and wastewater treatment plants and the rue Jacques-Cartier project.

Currently, the main investment projects underway are the synthetic fields in the Aylmer sector being built in partnership with the ministère de l'Éducation et de l'Enseignement supérieur du Québec and the Portages-de-l'Outaouais (école secondaire Grande-Rivière, $2.4M) and Western Québec (école secondaire D'Arcy McGee Symmes, $2.5M) school boards. These follow on the heels of the synthetic fields at école secondaire Hormisdas-Gamelin and l'école polyvalente Le Carrefour, which were inaugurated in 2015 and 2016.

Despite these massive investments, Gatineau is still keeping a tight rein on its debt, which in 2017 is in its third consecutive year of decline. More than 60% of the investment program is paid in cash, an achievement that is unmatched by any other major city in the province. Debt servicing is now only 11% of our expenditures, compared to 23% at the time of the municipal merger.

Without a doubt, this Municipal Council will have left its mark not only in the choice of investments but also in the changes made to our procedures. I am very pleased with the tremendous discipline that is now being applied to the budget process.

Thank you and have a good evening.

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