Montreal to freeze property taxes for homeowners and businesses in 2021
by Matt Gilmour, CTV Montreal
MONTREAL -- Montreal will freeze property taxes for homeowners and businesses in 2021, Mayor Valerie Plante said Thursday in a press conference where she laid out the city’s difficult financial position.
The freeze will amount to a $56-million reprieve for taxpayers, just as certain sectors of the economy are once again forced to shutter.
"We're making sure $56 million stays in Montrealers' pockets. That's the way to see it,” Plante said, acknowledging that the decision will impact the city’s 2021 budget.
"Unfortunately, (the pandemic) is not over, so we are trying to give (Montrealers) a break with this tax freeze," she added.
Plante also committed to more aid for bars, restaurants, and the cultural sector, to complement the aid package promised by the provincial government, when it announced the 28-day shutdown.
Groups representing taxpayers were quick to applaud the decision.
"This tax freeze will help give a bit of breathing room to residents and shopkeepers who have been hard hit by the financial impacts of COVID-19," said Renaud Brossard, CTF Quebec Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. "It might not have been an easy choice for the administration, but it is the right choice."
The City of Montreal is facing an estimated budget deficit of between $109 million and $129 million, for 2020.
The deficit was expected to be much higher, but because of spending cuts implemented in April, the city was able to save $123 million, according to Plante.
"We knew there would be extra spending (to come), and we were right," Plante said.
The bulk of the deficit comes from revenue losses in three major areas, according to Benoit Dorais, chairman of the Montreal executive committee.
The city is reporting a tax revenue loss of $80 million, mostly due to major real estate projects that were put on hold during the pandemic; a $27-$30 million loss in revenue from parking meters; and a $73 million shortfall in parking tickets because of a large decrease in traffic, during the pandemic.
"We estimate the direct expenses related to COVID-19 at $85 million, for the present year," Dorais said. "These various expenses include protective measures to ensure services to the population, as well as unprecedented support for the most vulnerable people."
The full financial report will be available, as usual, in the spring. Until then, Dorais said the city will look for the best approach to pay for the deficit.
"The city has several options," he said, listing government assistance from the province, announced last Friday; dipping into surplus reserves, accumulated over the past three years; additional expenditure cuts; and short-term loans.
“These solutions will be presented to you in due time, but one thing that is certain, there is no question of us simply putting the entire shortfall on a credit card,” Dorais said.