Essonne is campaigning to review the funding of departments

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On March 6, the Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire called for a “budgetary tightening” intended to fill the deficit which is widening in the country and had, in particular, asked local authorities to participate in the effort. A message that made the main stakeholders jump. Practical case with a department, Essonne.

Soaring constrained spending

Essonne’s 2023 budget was 1.3 billion euros. It consisted of 740 million euros of so-called social expenditure (RSA, elderly people, disabled people, child protection, etc.), 100 million for firefighters, 60 million for colleges, 40 million for road maintenance. , 220 million for the personnel necessary to carry out these missions… Which does not leave much room to finance sport, culture, community life, even if these expenses are legally optional for the departments, or to provide the financing necessary to investment (such as the creation of new colleges for example). In addition, constrained spending is soaring. “Over the last four or five years, social spending has increased significantly; for example, I had to add 22 million euros to the budget for child protection, compared to what I had planned only six months ago,” warns Nicolas Samsoen, mayor of Massy and vice-president. president of the departmental council of Essonne.

“We ask that our revenues not be so dependent on economic activity while we finance expenditure, particularly social, that cannot be reduced.”

But it is especially on the revenue side that things are bad. Since January 1, 2021, the departments no longer collect property tax on buildings and in exchange receive compensation from the State. But this does not increase as quickly as constrained spending or even inflation. To make matters worse, one of the departments’ main windfalls, consisting of transfer taxes, is in free fall, costing Essonne nearly 100 million euros in revenue, where these rights increased from 300 million in May. 2023 to 200 million in April 2024. As a result, this department, which since the arrival of the current majority in 2015 had maintained its debt stable, had to borrow to finance its envelope allocated to investment. This, of 275 million euros, will therefore be 64% financed by borrowing in 2023, compared to 30% in 2022. The debt thus increased from 951 million in 2022 to 1.038 billion euros in 2023.

A direct tax?

“Basically, it is not the turn of the screw envisaged by Bercy that is the problem, it is the entire financing of the departments that must be reviewed from top to bottom. We first ask that our revenues not be so dependent on economic activity while we finance expenditure, particularly social, which cannot be reduced, argues Nicolas Samsoen. We also ask to be able to raise a tax paid directly by all the inhabitants of our departments (and not only by the owners, as with the property tax), in order to be able to invest in the future of our territories. And the voters would say whether we used their money well.” It would indeed be a salutary democratic exercise.

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