Annual fiscal exercise includes a $29 million hike for employees’ salaries
While the City of Laval’s latest operating budget calls for the average property owner to pay just 1.9 per cent more in taxes in 2022, the $969.9 million fiscal exercise includes spending that is 4.3 per cent higher than it was last year.
City sets priorities
In a statement issued by the city last Thursday when the budget was released, finance department officials said their priorities over the coming year will focus primarily on improving the security of residents as well as municipal employees, optimizing services to citizens, following sound environmental practices, enhancing the quality of life and managing finances responsibly.
Although much of the operating budget consists of business-as-usual expenditures adjusted slightly upwards to take inflation into consideration, there are a few notable exceptions. Perhaps most outstanding among these is a significant increase in the city’s payroll expenses, which is the total amount Laval expects to pay in 2022 to its thousands of employees.
$29 million more in salaries
Answering questions from journalists about the budget last week, Pierre Beaudet, the city’s director of finance, said the payroll is going up by two per cent or roughly $29 million next year. The city will be paying its employees around $412 million in 2022 (not including more than $100 million more for social benefits).
The two per cent hike reflects not only salary increases written into unionized workers’ contracts, but also the fact that the city is hiring 269 new employees. In an interview with the Laval News, Mayor Stéphane Boyer explained that as the City of Laval expands and its population rises, the municipality has no choice but to hire new employees almost every year to meet the rising demand on services.
Hiring for growing population
“To maintain the level of service, we have to hire, because each year we have more kilometres of streets to clear of snow, more residents who want to access municipal services,” he said. “There’s always an increase that is due simply to an increase in the population.” Mayor Boyer pointed out that the 269 new workers includes 60 who are re-hired annually on one-year contracts which are renewed. He said the actual number of new positions is 111.
Although the Covid pandemic is taking a toll on the city’s expenses, it’s not as devastating as might otherwise be expected. According to the new budget, $15 million has been allotted for pandemic-related costs in the coming year.
Some of this will be going towards the purchase of PPE (personal protective equipment) to safeguard employees against viral spread. As well, the city has found it necessary to purchase laptop computers and other equipment so that employees can work from home during periods of mandatory isolation.
Covid pandemic expenses
But that’s not all. Around $6 million of the sum will be going to the Société de transport de Laval to make up for the STL’s steep decline in revenue from the loss of passenger traffic during the pandemic. Thorough cleaning of municipal offices to minimize the risk of Covid spread is also an additional expense resulting from the pandemic.
The city has also made room on the 2022 budget for better public security. Laval has allotted $1.7 million to provide its police force with better resources to deal with sexual exploitation by pimps, as well as the illegal spread of firearms and the presence of organized crime on the city’s territory. The city says more than $2 million has been set aside for programs to encourage inclusion and diversity within institutional settings.
$65K to protect firefighters
The city plans to spend $65,000 next year implementing a new system designed to protect its firefighters from hazardous and potentially carcinogenic smoke and fumes. The fire department will be purchasing an additive to be fed into the water that’s poured onto fires; it is designed to chemically absorb carbon molecules and smoke, thus minimizing the health impact on firefighting personnel.
The city is allotting $1.9 million to improve snow removal, and an additional $1.7 million to improve the current system of alternative street parking during snow removal operations. As well, the city says it is continuing to improve traffic management with the purchase of more illuminated speed indication signage.
Jeux du Québec next year
The city is allotting $285,000 to support the opening in the fall of 2022 of the Centre d’interprétation des biosciences Armand-Frappier. Currently located on des Prairies Blvd. in Laval-des-Rapides, the museum is moving next fall into a brand-new facility next to the Cosmodôme in central Laval.
And finally, despite all the turmoil and postponements brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the city hasn’t forgotten its commitment to hosting the Finals for the Jeux du Québec which were supposed to take place in 2020.
According to next year’s budget, $2 million has been set aside for the provincial athletics and sporting event scheduled to be held in Laval sometime next year.