Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante presented her first budget Wednesday, with 68.4 per cent — $3.6 billion — of the city’s total funding coming from property taxes.
“This is a transition budget,” Plante said.
“We need to take the past administration’s priorities and adapt it to our vision and move forward.”
The government is increasing its budget to $5.4 billion, up 5.2 per cent from 2017 — including a $24.7-million increase (2.9 per cent) to the boroughs.
“We had to make choices and the choices we made are in the budget,” said Benoit Dorais, chair of the executive committee.
Plante had previously insisted she would not increase taxes beyond the rate of inflation.
However, in her budget, residential taxes will increase 1.9 per cent (the increase was 1.7 per cent under Coderre in 2017 and 1.9 per cent in 2016).
Commercial and industrial property taxes will increase by 2.1 per cent (it was 0.9 per cent in 2016 and 2017, which Coderre insisted was to ease the stress on merchants.)
Furthermore, the city is increasing the water tax — for the first time since 2013, adding 1.1 per cent to residential property taxes and 0.8 per cent for non-residential properties.
The average total tax increase is 3.3 per cent for homeowners, with the highest in Rosemont-la-Petite-Patrie at 5.6 per cent followed by Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension at 5.4 per cent and Outremont at 4.5 per cent.
The estimated rate of inflation, according to the Conference Board of Canada, is 2.1 per cent.
“We’ve always been talking about the property tax, so to me, we are respecting our promise,” said Plante, insisting that the water tax should be thought of as separate to the property tax.
“I understand that it’s hard for the citizens to see the bigger picture, but we did not break our election promise.”
The mayor mentioned she wants to improve the city’s water infrastructure financing, though that would “require a major increase in investments”.
Plante argued that investing in the water tax will ultimately reduce the number of water main breaks and construction around the city.
Lionel Perez, leader of the official opposition, tore into the budget Wednesday, saying he’s not buying Plante’s claim that she kept her election promise.
“[The increased taxes are] going to affect families moving to Montreal, it affects quality of life and it shows how the Plante-Dorais administration is disconnected and will hurt the population,” he said.
“This is clearly a broken promise. When they [residents] get a tax bill, they don’t start parsing it, they see the total amount.”
WATCH BELOW: Opposition tears into 2018 budget
Perez refuted Plante’s claim that she had to invest in water because there was a lack of commitment to improve infrastructure from previous administrations.
“That is insulting the intelligence of Montrealers. Everybody knows the amount of roadwork and infrastructure work happening in Montreal right now,” Perez said.
“If the population knew what the budget was that they were voting for, we are sure they would have never voted for this administration,” said Alan DeSousa, borough mayor of Saint-Laurent and vice-president of the commission responsible for finance and administration.
During the election, Plante campaigned on a promise to improve public transit to alleviate traffic in the city.
Public transit will get a $27.7-million increase to the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), which takes care of the Réseau de transport de Longueuil (RTL), the Société de transport de Laval (STL) and the STM.
The pink Metro line was not mentioned in the budget.
WATCH BELOW: Valérie Plante was elected mayor Nov. 5
“[My family has] been using public transport, the four of us, for 20 years,” Plante said.
“So it’s really part of my life.”
The city is also budgeting $138.4 million for municipal roadwork, including $96.9 for borough budgets.
Snow removal will see a $6-million increase from 2017, bringing the total budget to $163.3 million.
Annual contributions to the City of Montreal from the demerged cities also increased.
Most notably, the Town of Mount Royal (TMR) will see an increase of 9.8 per, Montreal West of 9 per cent and Dorval Island of 7.1 per cent.
Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is the only city that saw a decrease in its contribution (7.4 per cent).
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