The 2024 Budget: Ensemble Montréal calls for lower taxes

lower taxes

Montréal, December 6, 2023 – Concerned about Montrealers’ ability to pay, Official Opposition councillors are calling for a reduction in municipal taxes. They will table several amendments to the Plante-Ollivier administration’s 2024 budget aimed at lowering the tax increase by 1.5%, thus returning some $54 million to Montrealers’ pockets. 

During the 2021 election campaign, Mayor Plante stated that property tax increases would be limited to inflation throughout her second term. That’s another broken promise: the 4.9% explosion in residential taxes, the largest increase in 14 years, exceeds both October 2023’s actual inflation and the projected 2024 inflation.

“At a time when Montrealers are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, the administration is grabbing more than $165 million from their pockets. In the current situation, they could have saved themselves some embarrassment, but clearly, there’s nothing too good for the caviar left of Projet Montréal. Ensemble Montréal will try to rectify the situation to give residents some breathing space,” said Alan DeSousa, the Official Opposition’s finance critic, at a press conference today.

He highlighted the mismanagement of the city’s budget, which has increased by nearly $2 billion since Projet Montréal came to power. 

Ensemble Montréal is also calling for a tax reduction for merchants and contractors. It makes no sense to hit them with a 4.6% increase when they’re struggling to deal with a vacancy rate that’s risen steadily since 2015. What’s more, the 2024 budget includes no new money to deal with this issue. 

“Merchants and contractors have been telling us for months they don’t know which way to turn, what with inflation, labour shortages and orange cones everywhere. As if that weren’t enough, the administration is adding to their troubles with this dramatic tax increase. Although Projet Montréal doesn’t seem to give a hoot about our economic attractiveness, Ensemble Montréal intends to make them listen to reason,” emphasized Laurent Desbois, vice-chair of the city’s finance committee.

Crumbs for the homeless

The Official Opposition’s elected officials are demanding that contributions to organizations working with the homeless be doubled to provide urgently needed support. As the number of people living on the streets has risen by 33% in 5 years, it is dismaying to see that only $500,000 has been added to the budget for homelessness. This amounts to just 0.09% of the city’s total budget.

What’s more, after 2025, the Plante administration will be quietly phasing out the financial assistance it allocates to organizations for certain essential services, such as emergency housing, drop-in centres and intervention – cuts that Ensemble Montréal calls scandalous.

A third budget deficit for the STM

The party is also concerned that the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) budget is in the red for a third year, despite the fact that municipalities are prohibited by law from presenting a deficit budget. The shortfall will amount to at least $47 million for the year 2024 – a deficit that could balloon, depending on additional optimization targets requested by the ARTM (Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain).

While management hiring continues (13% growth since 2017), user services are deteriorating. In fact, the STM’s 2024 budget includes a planned reduction in Métro service of one million kilometres, while bus punctuality is at a 4-year low: more than one bus in four was late in September. At the same time, the level of overcrowding in the transit system (the main cause of user dissatisfaction) is intensifying, while insecurity and uncleanliness are also gaining ground. To Ensemble Montréal, these findings are proof that the STM needs to clean up its spending and straighten out its priorities.

Better funding for boroughs

Finally, Ensemble Montréal continues to nag the administration to better fund the boroughs, which provide front-line services to residents. The party is calling for a 2.5% increase in municipal transfers to the boroughs, which would effectively index borough revenues to the inflation forecast for 2024. These transfers account for around 70% of total borough revenues.

If the Plante-Ollivier administration does not accept these amendments, Official Opposition councillors said they will feel obliged to vote against adopting the budget. Their main objections have been published in a minority report:

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