Boyer says he is prioritizing public security, housing and environment
Although the City of Laval’s latest operating budget calls for the average property owner to pay a lower property tax increase next year than in some other Quebec cities, the city’s total financial allotments for 2023 will exceed the $1 billion mark for the first time in Laval’s history.
The announced 2.9 per cent average residential property tax increase is significantly lower than the 4.1 per cent hike announced by the City of Montreal last week.
While Laval’s mayor and councillors are planning to spend a total of $1.05 billion over the next 12 months, this compares to the $969.9 million that was allotted in the budget for 2022.
You’ll pay $155 more in 2023
For the average owner of a home worth $440,742 in Laval, the 2.9 per cent increase translates into $155 extra on a 2023 tax bill compared to 2022.
This year’s tax bills will also include two specific additional amounts, to help pay the cost of regional public transit ($19), as well as an ongoing schedule of upgrades and improvements to Laval’s drinking water system.
In addition to these expenses, Laval is budgeting $1.2 billion for capital works projects to be completed over the next few years (2023-2025) in its triennial spending program (PTI).
The entire roster of expenditures will be subject to approval at the next sitting of the 21-member city council, which is currently dominated by the 14-member Boyer administration caucus.
The capacity to pay
The seven councillors in opposition (two with the Parti Laval, five with Action Laval) will undoubtedly have much to say before voting for or against the 2023 fiscal exercise.
In a statement issued last week, the Boyer administration said that in capping the overall tax hike, the city “recognized the burden and the financial pressure with which the population of Laval was coping daily. In the course of the current exercise, the municipal administration made a considerable effort to rationalize its expenses.”
In keeping with this last thought, the city’s administrators said they found it was necessary to reduce by three-quarters (78 per cent to be precise) the number of new hirings that had previously been planned, “in order to maintain the quality of services to the population, while maintaining the tax rate beneath the rate of inflation.”
A sudden hiring freeze
This new approach represents a drastic turnaround from what the Boyer administration had in mind in its 2022 budget. At this time last year, the city announced that its payroll would be increasing by roughly $29 million a year, representing not only salary increases written into unionized workers’ contracts, but also the hiring of nearly 270 new employees to meet the demands of a steadily increasing population.
“I am proud of the budget that I am presenting today,” Mayor Stéphane Boyer said as the latest budget was unveiled. “We did the maximum to limit new expenses, while avoiding cuts to public services. With a population that is struggling to make ends meet, I believe it was the thing to do: taking care of our people, while restraining taxation. Since the beginning of my mandate, taxes have gone up twice at rates lower than inflation.”
No hiring freeze at LPD
While new hirings in most city departments have been postponed at least for now, this is not the case with public security or the police department. According to municipal officials, public safety was prioritized when they were formulating the budget.
As such, $2.5 million has been set aside for the hiring of new police officers, as well as for new resources at the 9-1-1 emergency call centre. In the meantime, the city is in the midst of building a new comprehensive police station in Chomedey to serve western Laval, at a cost of $60 million, while a major renovation of the police station in eastern Laval will be starting sometime this year.
“We know that there is no magic solution to fix crime on our territory,” Mayor Boyer said regarding public safety issues. He said it was his hope that the new investments would reflect his administration’s current vision for public safety, emphazing prevention, improved investigations and a greater presence of police officers on the beat.
Some additional talking points:
- Street and road improvements:
- $216.5 million has been allotted in the PTI for road maintenance and new streets;
- $24.8 million is available for traffic calming and other traffic improvements.
- Parks, sports facilities, cultural venues, etc.:
- $263.1 million in the PTI.
- Economic development:
- $685,000 for a project to help stimulate the development of small and medium-size business startups in Laval);
- $750,000 to help develop new sources of labour, at a time when labour shortages are acute;
- $250,000 to help develop the social economy in Laval.
- Water management (sewers, aqueducts, pumping stations, drinking water filtration plants and waste water disposal):
- $222.5 million, an increase of 24 per cent over 2022.
- $1.4 million for public art projects;
- $300,000 in added funding for cultural projects in all neighbourhoods;
- $39.4 million in the PTI for cultural facilities.