Laval’s budget nears the billion-dollar mark this year, with $40 million in new money dedicated to more citizen services such as snow removal, tree felling, 311 improvements and more.
The city’s $921.4 million budget represents a $42 million or 5.6 percent increase over 2019 with operating expenses totaling $792.4 million next year.
Taxpayers can expect an increase of 1.4 percent, as nearly $71.8 million is spent on long-term debt repayment, an increase of $6.1 million over 2019. Property taxes (all sectors) rise 1.4 percent on average (approximately $50 per residential property) representing an additional $10.2 million in city coffers. The city also picks up $10 million more in government transfers.
Preparing a budget is a six-month exercise said Demers, when asked if he will be delivering a tax freeze or decrease next year as an electoral gift before the 2021 municipal elections, following the official opposition’s longstanding calls for a tax freeze. “Our objective is to deliver the best budget possible considering citizens’ capacity to pay and to keep our best available credit rating.” With $485-$490 million in debt on which the city pays interest he says, the less we pay in interest the better.”
New monies for services include $1.9 million for snow removal, as well as an increase in funding for public transit: Laval will pay $85.2 million (up from $83.4 million last year) to the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM) that funds the Laval Transit Corporation (STL)–along with $400,000 directly to the STL for transportation at the Quebec Games (which receives $1.6 million overall) and which will be held next summer in Laval.
Waiting time for tree pruning and felling should shorten thanks to $1.7 million to “strengthen the workforce” dedicated to demineralization and planting on private and institutional lands.
In fact, the city’s employee rolls are at a four-year-high, with 4028 employees– 440 more than in 2017, with the largest increases next year in the number of blue collar employees (42) and cadres (31) while the number of school crossing guards remains unchanged at 32, and three new police and four new firefighters are hired.
There is cash for social and community housing ($3.4 million), renovation programs ($1.6 million), LED light installation ($18 million); BIXI stands ($900,000), preferential bus measures and more, like the city’s paying out of $150,000 in taxpayer cash to Cavalia for the Illumi event. (Laval will invest $750,000 into the project overall, along with the more than $2 million paid by the Quebec government.)
Laval’s Official Opposition slammed the city’s budget and its sixth tax increase in as many years.
“(Mayor Marc) Demers promised a tax increase in line with inflation, but in the last six years, he has received $25 million in overpayments,” says Fabreville councilor Claude Larochelle adding that the hikes are based “on mistaken inflation forecasting that was never corrected.”
Opposition and Parti Laval leader Michel Trottier said the evolution of the city’s workforce explains a lot about what he finds wrong with the city administration. “Since Demers took office, the number of employees has increased by 25 percent. If we look at the professional and administrative employees, the number of employees has doubled, while for blue-collar workers we are talking about an increase of just two percent per year.”
Council will vote on the budget at a special council meeting next Wednesday, December 11.
The city budget and PTI can be viewed at https://www.laval.ca/Documents/Pages/Fr/A-propos/finances/budget-2020.pdf