Montreal's 2023 budget in a nutshell: taxes, money for housing, policing all go up
City says it must find new ways of generating revenue to fulfill responsibilities
Municipal taxes are going up in the city but Montreal has kept its promise to keep the hike under the rate of inflation, saying it shouldn't rely on taxes alone to make money.
The city presented its 2023 budget Tuesday morning. It is expected to spend about $300 million more than last year, for a total of about $6.76 billion.
Dominique Ollivier, the chair of Montreal's executive committee, said the city has had to take on more commitments as residents grapple with a higher cost of living but acknowledged that continuously raising taxes cannot be the answer.
"The city still depends very, very heavily on property taxes, which, I remind you, make up two-thirds of our revenue," Ollivier said. "As we move forward, the city's responsibilities are growing … and the revenues are clearly not keeping up."
Residential taxes across the city will be going up by an average of 4.1 per cent — below the rate of inflation, currently estimated at 6.9 per cent, but still the highest levels since 2011.
"It was important for us to soften the blow, when we know the population is feeling the pressure," said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.
The city said it will hold a summit in 2023 to look at other sources of funding, but Ollivier said there were some expenses that the city shouldn't have to bear alone.
"The Quebec government needs to do its part. It needs to pay its bills and increase its transfers to the city of Montreal," said Ollivier.
Plante said the budget focused on four main issues: housing, public safety, mobility and the environment. Here's what you need to know.
Whose taxes are going up?
Everyone's, basically — but some boroughs will be hit harder than others.
L'île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève residents will be paying the most, with an increase of six per cent to residential households.
Other boroughs getting significant increases include Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (5.7 per cent), Côte-Des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-De-Grâce (5.4 per cent) and Pierrefonds-Roxboro (5.4 per cent).
Downtown residents in Ville-Marie were mostly spared, with a scant 1.7 per cent increase. Montréal-Nord and Saint-Léonard residents also saw only small increases, of 3.2 per cent and 3.3 per cent, respectively.
What does that mean in dollars? On average across the city, it would be an increase of about $164 — but the exact amount depends on if your home is a single-family house or a condo, and what borough it's in.
For example, since the average value of a single-family home in Outremont is so high, those homeowners will see an average increase of $542 — compared to a condo in Montréal-Nord, where the average increase is about $26.
Montrealers will get to play with some of that money, though. The participatory budget — where citizens get to pitch and vote for projects funded by the city — will be expanded, from $10 million in previous years to $45 million in 2023.
Going forward, $60 million will be set aside for the initiative every year.
Let's talk about housing
For the next 10 years, the city has earmarked $120 million to buy buildings for social housing, with another $480 million for affordable housing. Of those funds, about $20 million is expected to be used in the next three years.
The city said it is watching 40 occupied residential buildings and 106 rooming houses that it's ready to purchase under its right of first refusal.
Plante said the city is focusing on affordable housing because social housing is the Quebec government's jurisdiction, so the province would need to finance social housing projects.
That's something Montreal wants to change. It said it will try to renegotiate the terms of its housing agreement with the Quebec government next year.
"The private sector has a role to play, the levels of government have a role to play," Plante insisted. "It can't be on the shoulders of the city of Montreal alone … it's impossible."
There is also $6 million on the table for non-profit housing organizations. Another $4.9 million this year will go to programs tackling homelessness.
In addition to those investments, the city said it will be launching its landlord certification and rent registry programs in 2023.
Police budget grows significantly, yet again
Public security makes up the largest slice of the budget: 18.4 per cent. Much of that goes to the Montreal police, whose budget has grown yet again.
The Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) will receive about $787 million next year, an increase of $63 million compared to last year. Part of that money is for hiring: the city has budgeted enough to hire 123 new police officers next year.
As for body cameras, the city has set aside about $16.5 million for the project, but there's no date for when they'll be in use.
City officials say they are waiting for Quebec's Public Security Ministry to submit its final report on the question, which is expected in the coming weeks.
Once that's done, the city says it will be able to move forward with the program, alongside the province and other police forces. Officials say they are aiming to have body cameras on Montreal police officers in 2023 or 2024.
In terms of other investments, the city said it will nearly double the funding for EMMIS (l'équipe mobile de médiation en intervention sociale), a program that sends social workers to respond to 911 calls. The program will receive $10 million next year, compared to $5.6 million in 2022.
Transit: significant investments in bike infrastructure
Montreal will be investing about $500 million over the next 10 years in cycling infrastructure, including about $300 million to expand the bike path network and the Réseau express vélo (REV). Another $100 million is earmarked for maintaining what's built.
As for Bixi, about $15 million is budgeted over 10 years to add more than 30 stations and about 100 electric bikes to its current offering.
The city also plans to build 2,000 more electric car charging stations by 2025.
When it comes to public transit, the STM unveiled its $1.7 billion budget Monday. The city said today that more than $68 million is set aside for the extension of the Metro's Blue line.
Other green initiatives
The city said it is hoping to significantly tackle greenhouse gas emissions by overhauling one specific Montreal facility.
It has earmarked $682 million over 10 years to replace the incinerators at the Jean-R.-Marcotte wastewater treatment plant in Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles.
The incinerators are responsible for more than 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings, Plante said.
There will also be $461 million, also over 10 years, to improve the wastewater treatment. The plant treats nearly half of Quebec's wastewater before releasing it into the St. Lawrence River.
Other environmental initiatives include taxing the owners of parking lots that are over 20,000 square metres. The city expects to reap $5 million from that initiative, with that money going toward public transit.
The hope is to also encourage owners to use the space for something greener, officials said.
Businesses will also be encouraged to reduce their use of water. Owners will start getting taxed in 2023 with the first bill coming at the end of the year.
Officials say only half of the city's businesses, those who consume more water, should be affected. The move is expected to net $15 million a year going forward.
Taxes for commercial buildings in the city will also rise by 2.9 per cent.
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