Laval school taxes soar

Taxpayers pay more, schools get less


By Robert Frank

www.thesuburban.com

Next week, Laval property
owners can expect to receive
school tax bills hundreds of dollars more than last year.

This year, the Parti québécois
government has slashed in half
the grant that ratepayers receive
to offset the impact of soaring
real estate values on their school
tax bill.

In 2006, the Liberal government moved to protect real
estate owners by giving them a
break on their school tax bills
called an equalization grant.
That reduction has been cut by
50 per cent of what it was last
year.

If you check last year’s school
tax statement, if you paid, say,
$1,200 and it showed that you
received an equalization grant of
$350, for example, last year—this year you will pay about $175 more.
The amount that individual ratepayers
pay will vary, of course, depending on the
amount that the city has assessed that your property is worth.

Part of the impact on Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board (SWLSB) will be
offset by its increasing enrolment—an
anomaly among Quebec’s other English
school boards, whose student numbers
have been steadily dropping everywhere
else in the province.

The Quebec government plans to give
school boards approximately $794 per
student to cover the cost of their education for the coming year.


Scales tipped against English schools

In the meantime, though, SWLSB is
being hit by Quebec government rules
that, by default, channel most school tax
proceeds to French school boards.

If your child is enrolled in an English
school board such as SWLSB, then the
school taxes that you pay will automatically go to your English school board.

However, everyone else is automatically put on the French school board’s tax
roll, unless you specifically request to
be placed on the English roll.

SWLSB is particularly hard-hit by
this Quebec government policy,
because many neighbouring French
school boards charge much less. The
lower school tax tab provides a powerful
incentive for English ratepayers who don’t have children in school to opt to
pay their taxes to a French school
board.

In addition, even students who graduate from Quebec’s English schools are
automatically transferred to the French
school tax roll when they turn 18, and
have to take the trouble to notify the
government if they want to switch to
supporting English school boards.

The government is also throttling all
school board budgets in Quebec.

“During the past five years, all the
boards across the province have
received almost $1 billion less in funding,” lamented Quebec English School
Board Association president David
D’Aoust.

Meantime, he said “I expect my own tax bill will go up by about $280 a year.”
School tax bills are slated to go out
July 1—the fifteenth anniversary of the
introduction of linguistic school
boards in Quebec by then-Education Minister Pauline Marois.

At the time, critics expressed the well-founded fear that Marois’ move
would permit the Quebec government
to slash the budgets on which the
province’s school boards depend.

“The government wants us to make
internal cuts, but the administrative
costs of school boards already has to be
the lowest of all public and parapublic
organizations,” D’Aoust concluded.

“At 4.4 per cent it is low, and very
much lower than municipalities, as a
matter of fact.

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