Martin C. Barry
Residential property owners in Laval will be paying around 1.4 per cent more in taxes in 2020 – an average $50 extra on a tax bill for a typical house – according to the city’s latest annual budget which was presented to the media last Monday at Laval city hall.
$921.4 million budget
A single-family house owner who was paying $3,054 in property taxes in 2019 will be paying $3,104 in 2020, according to the new budget. The Demers administration’s seventh budget since first being elected in 2013 allots $921.4 million to pay for expenses next year.
This compares to $875.3 million in operating expenses in the 2019 budget and a 1.8 per cent tax increase last year. The City of Laval’s latest triennial capital works expenditure budget is $1.133 billion for the years 2020-2022.
“Always in keeping with priorities expressed by our population, we will be allotting in 2020 $40 million in additional funding for the improvement of services,” Mayor Marc Demers told journalists.
More for snow removal
He noted that the city is paying particular attention to providing funding for issues that have become more pressing in recent years, including snow removal, sidewalk repairs and the planting and maintenance of trees.
Laval will be spending $71.8 million next year reimbursing its debts, thus reducing loan interest charges in the long term. This is $6.1 million more than the city spent last year on its debt-reduction efforts.
“Laval is in the midst of a period of accelerated growth,” added Demers. “As such, it is our duty to apply management principles to meet the needs of our population while facing unforeseen events, such as the repercussions of climate change.”
$1.9 million more for snow
Responding to the increasingly severe winters Laval and other Quebec communities have been experiencing – as well as criticism from residents about poor snow removal and icy sidewalks – Laval is increasing its budget for wintertime snow removal, as well as street and sidewalk maintenance, by $1.9 million for a total of $37.8 million allotted for this purpose in 2020.
The City of Laval’s 2020 budget also includes a $1.6 million allotment to help pay for the Jeux du Québec games finals which will be taking place in Laval next year. The STL will also be receiving additional funding from the city to pay for the extra bus service that will be necessary during the Jeux du Québec. As well, the city plans to spend $200,000 more on its social crisis team which intervenes with homeless people who are living on the street.
Making up for past neglect
Regarding the triennial capital works budget, the mayor said that in 2020 the city plans to spend $72.1 million on improvements to its roads and streets, pedestrian walkways and bike paths, as well as $25.9 million on sewers and underground water conducts. “We have the responsibility of bringing up to standard our infrastructures which were neglected for too many years,” said Demers.
The city is allotting $29 million (along with a previous $13.4 million) for the construction of a new police station to be located in the near future in the western half of Laval. As well, $20 million has been set aside for a new municipal administration building, and $28.5 million for the construction of two new firehalls.
Cité de la culture funding
A section of the budget included what appeared to be a $2 million overrun reported by the Cité de la culture et du sport de Laval, an independently administered corporation created by the city to oversee operations at Place Bell.
In an interview with The Laval News, Mayor Demers said the number in question represents an amount the city expected to recoup from the Cité de la culture. “We took the $2 million back because we’re not sure we’re going to get it,” he said. The city’s director of finance, Raymond LeBlanc maintained there is no shortfall.
“The operations, all the revenues and costs are covered,” he said. “They are also putting aside moneys for the maintenance and future ongoing upgrades to the building. But after doing that – this is above and beyond – we had expected that they might be able to produce an additional amount of money that we would have been able to integrate into the budget of the city – which will now not take place.”
Opposition reacts to budget
The two opposition parties on Laval city council reacted swiftly to the budget. Michel Trottier, leader of the Parti Laval, said that a 1.4 per cent tax hike doesn’t reflect the overall tax increases the Demers administration has imposed since coming to power. He claimed that overall property taxes exceed the rate of inflation. As well, he said the Parti Laval continues to advocate for a property tax freeze.
The second opposition party, Action Laval, noted that the city has large surpluses, including sums Laval was able to recuperate from service contractors who overcharged the city, which are not being used to decrease the fiscal burden weighing down on property tax payers.
“The mayor of Laval is showing a serious lack of concern for Laval’s taxpayers,” said Action Laval city councillor for Saint-Bruno David De Cotis, a former member of Mayor Demers’s excecutive-committee. “I would like to remind him that these surpluses and the money recuperated from corruption don’t belong to him, but to the citizens,” De Cotis added.