REPORTAGE At the Salon des Maires in Paris, elected officials testify to their difficulties in making ends meet
The 104th congress of the Association of French Mayors (AMF). — TLG/20Minutes
- The Parc des expositions is hosting the 104th congress of the Association of Mayors of France this week.
- Mayors worried about runaway inflation and skyrocketing energy costs.
- Faced with difficulties in making ends meet, municipalities are forced to make investment choices, and some are considering a tax increase.
In the cozy corridors of the Paris Exhibition Center, mayors from all over France are discussing this Wednesday in small groups. At the 104th congress of the Association of Mayors of France (AMF), concern dominates. Because galloping inflation, and in particular the explosion in the cost of energy, have a significant impact on the finances of the municipalities. According to a Cevipof survey published on Monday, 35% of the 3,700 mayors questioned said they were “very concerned” and 42% “concerned” by this increase in costs, which very often oblige elected officials to having to make hard choices.
“350% increase in energy expenditure”
“Inflation is a real subject for us,” breathes Jean-Marc Bergia, mayor of Saubens, in Haute-Garonne. “There is general inflation on all products, like school supplies, but it’s mostly the energy that hurts us. Between water, gas, electricity, we have this year a 350% increase in energy expenditure, it’s enormous. Added for example to the increase in the index point for our 10 agents”,” enumerates the elected official. Last July, the government announced the 3.5% increase in the index point for civil servants.
A new expense that is added to your others, also linked to inflation. “Concerning roads, for road maintenance, the cost of materials has doubled; ; on the buildings, we are at approximately more than 30% increase. This is reflected in the bills,” says Philippe Brochet, mayor of Chamblay, a village of 400 inhabitants in the Jura. But it’s the explosion in energy prices that is being pointed out. of the finger by the elected officials this Wednesday. “That’s our first concern. Our town is at 1,100 meters above sea level, we have to warm up!”, ironically Jean-Pierre Santy, mayor of Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid, a commune of Haute-Loire with 240 heads.
En soutien aux villes face aux prix de l’énergie, nous avons créé un filet de sécurité de 430 millions€. J’ai échangé ce jour avec des Maires qui viennent de recevoir un acompte de 5 000€ à 200 000€ et ont pu ainsi boucler leur budget 2022. On travaille désormais au filet 2023 pic.twitter.com/Cisz4nayQL
— Gabriel Attal (@GabrielAttal) November 22, 2022
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The government has certainly announced at the end of October the installation of an “electricity damper” and a new “safety net” to help municipalities in the coming months, but without too many details on how they will work. “Will we get that shield? And how much will we get? It’s hard to project because we don’t know anything except that energy prices will continue to rise. In the meantime, we have decided; to close the communal hall all winter”, adds the elected official of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
“ As few public events as possible »
In order not to blow up the budget, town halls tighten their belts and sometimes use the D system. First solution, therefore lower heating, and the reduction of public lighting, or even total extinction for Marie-Claude Nouvel, ` Seignalens. “Our lighting, which is not yet LED, is very energy intensive. So while waiting for the change, we decided; to turn off all the lights at night. It makes us a gain of two thirds on the bill,” justifies the elected representative of this small town of around thirty inhabitants in the Aude.
Philippe Brochet has been compelled to go further. “In public buildings, they have been cut off; electricity at night, changed the radiators, we will review the telephone contracts. We are looking for savings everywhere, but we are coming to the end of the day. At some point, we can no longer. So we are obliged to to make choices: today, we postpone the renovation of the heritage to invest in the school”. Others have taken the lead, such as Gaston Grand, mayor of Gabillou, in the Dordogne. “I do as much of the work myself as possible, I have redone all the ceilings in the town hall, buying only the materials, I have saved money. more than 20,000 euros”, he is satisfied. “But inflation has an impact on the life of the commune: we do as little as possible for public events, such as the committee; parties, that sort of thing… this summer to reduce energy costs”.”
The property tax, the only lever for municipalities?
Side good news, Elisabeth Borne announced; in October an increase in the global operating grant (DGF) for local authorities in 2023, at 320 million euros, evoking an unprecedented effort for thirteen years. But this gesture, which does not catch up with inflation, is not enough for the elected officials interviewed, who still regret the abolition of the housing tax. So, some are now tempted to increase the property tax. “We will postpone the purchase of supplies, of a vehicle for example. But the property tax is the only lever we have left,” assures Eric Février, mayor of Saint-Mamet-la-Salvetat, in Cantal. “We still use a lot of fuel oil in our kitchens. countryside. The accounts have exploded, you have to free up money to pay the bills,” by almost 70% in 2022.
“I have never increased taxes since 2014, but here the revenue is insufficient and we only have the land to act,” says Jean-Marc Bergia, mayor of Saubens. “You have to keep the shop running, otherwise it’s less public services, less cleaning in the schools,” he said. Before adding: “Mayor, it’s an exciting job, but you have to have faith.” According to an Ifop poll published in this Wednesday, some lost it: more than one out of two mayors (55%) would not want to run again. the end of his mandate in 2026, a record in twenty years.