Pontiac January 13, 2023
THE EQUITY spoke to Municipality of Pontiac’s (MoP) Mayor Roger Larose about the recently passed municipal budget and the renewal of the municipality’s bilingual status.
Starting with taxes, the municipality dropped the mil rate (the amount of tax payable per $100 of the assessed value of a property) from 64 cents to 53 cents, in the 2023 budget passed on Dec. 22, 2022.
Going into the budget season, many MoP residents were concerned about how higher property tax assessments would affect their 2023 tax bill. Larose said property tax assessment values increased by about 33 per cent last year. He attributes this increase to the high volume of property sales and to people overpaying for properties. He added that the evaluations are not within the control of the municipality’s or the MRC des Collines’ as assessments need to follow the guidelines set by the province.
However, Larose explained that the drop in the mil rate reflects that the municipality only needs so much money, and therefore the change in evaluations is not that important, as the amount of money taken in by the municipality is ultimately determined by the mil rate, which is set by the council.
“People got all excited about the evaluation,” Larose said. “I tried to explain to them that it doesn’t mean anything for us, it doesn’t matter if the evaluation goes up or down. You adjust your rate to get the amount of money you need. In the end, if we need a million dollars on a budget, it doesn’t matter what your evaluation is going to be, we’re just going to increase or decrease the rate to get to the million dollars we need.”
Larose said tax increases still might be high for those who saw a serious increase in their property assessment, but he expects the general tax burden will not increase by a lot due to the 11-cent drop in the mil rate. Ultimately, he said people would have to wait and see until they receive their tax bills.
Overall the MoP’s budget is spending over $752,501 more this year than last year. The 2023 budget totalled $10,878,590 for expenses and revenues, up from the $10,126,089 in 2022. Larose attributed the bigger budget to a variety of factors, including the increased demand for road work ($335,955 more than last year), an increase in the shares owed to the MRC des Collines ($78,189 more than last year) and to inflation causing price increases in everything.
The council also appropriated $250,000 of the MoP’s surplus to balance the budget.
In terms of major capital projects, Larose explained that the municipality wants to move in the direction of gradually taking over public service provision from private contractors.
“We want to buy equipment,” said Larose. “We’re going to try to take some of the contracts back like garbage collection or snow plowing.”
He said the municipality is looking into this due to the recent increase in the cost of the contracts.
He also mentioned the MoP is investing $200,000 to reopen the ecocentre at 1975 chemin du Lac-des-Loups, which has been closed since January 2020. The MoP will also put $100,000 towards building fencing around the park in Quyon and another $100,000 towards studies to fix up and improve the parks in Luskville and Quyon.
An overview of the 2023 budget is available on the MoP’s website.
Moving on to the question of language laws in Quebec, Larose said the MoP Council would pass a resolution requesting the province renew its bilingual status during the Jan. 17 public meeting. This is in response to a letter from l’Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) on Dec. 12, 2022 advising that that an official request from the council was necessary because less than 50 per cent of the population of the territory (42.1 per cent) declared English as their first language.
This requirement comes after language policy changes introduced in Bill 96.
According to the letter from the OQLF, which was published on the MoP’s Facebook page, the municipality has 120 days to pass the resolution or it will lose its bilingual status.
“It is really important for Pontiac because we’re half and half, we are both English and French,” said Larose, who said services should be available in both languages to residents.
The MoP was just one of 47 bilingual municipalities across the province that were sent the notice.
No municipalities in the MRC Pontiac were sent notice as they are all either over 50 per cent English and therefore their bilingual status is automatically renewed or they are already unilingual French.
It is unclear whether this is a one time request from the OQLF or whether it will have to be done after every census.
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