Desperate to find new ways to generate income and worried about the fate of trees in the municipality, the new elected officials of Saint-Lambert have decided to impose the payment of an additional $ 100 for swimming pool owners, which will be used to finance the tree plantation. Having a swimming pool is “a luxury” in 2021, says the new mayor.
“Even if we are at the bottom of the financial abyss, we are trying to find a way to finance the environment”, explains to Duty Pascale Mongrain, who has, moreover, a swimming pool in her yard. Having one is “a luxury in our time”, when “we know that we consume a lot of water” and that we must “protect it”.
Pressed for time to adopt its 2022 budget, the new municipal administration has started hunting for ideas to diversify its revenues. The city on the South Shore of Montreal has a net debt of $ 75 million, and residents’ tax bill will already be up 7.9% next year.
The idea of an additional payment for pool owners was raised. Nearly 1,000 households have one in Saint-Lambert. Someone then proposed to use the $ 100,000 to plant trees.
Even though we are at the bottom of the financial pit, we are trying to find a way to finance the environment.
Several have been cut because of the emerald ash borer over the past ten years, explains Pascale Mongrain. The canopy index rose from 34% in 2017 to 29% in 2020. “Between 2020 and 2021, we cut a lot of mature trees,” adds the mayor, who is not yet able to say how many will be added .
This $ 100, which should remain for the next few years, is in addition to a “compensation for residential swimming pools”, which amounts to $ 75 per year on the residents’ tax bill.
Karl Villeneuve, also owner of a swimming pool, and who had run for mayor in the last elections, launched a petition to protest against the new measure. This is a “first step to roll back the city council,” he told the Duty.
“Everyone is for that, planting trees, I plant them myself, but that creates an unfair situation, because trees benefit all citizens,” he says. He does not see the connection between the two, and instead proposes the creation of a financial reserve for trees to which all citizens would contribute.
Pascale Mongrain maintains for her part that the opponents are “extremely minority” and detects “bitterness” in her former opponent.
Called to decide, the experts do not see a priori a problem. “It is not a diversion”, mentions the professor and specialist in municipal management at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), Danielle Pilette, who compares this measure to eco-taxation. “It’s a reasonable price and the trees, with their roots, help manage water and prevent flooding. “
“It doesn’t shock me,” adds Michel Poitevin, professor of economics at the University of Montreal. I don’t think it has a big impact on building swimming pools. “