The operating budget includes several enhancements in services to the public.
Total investments: $234M
Gatineau is maintaining the debt-funded growth of the dedicated infrastructure fund equivalent to 1% of tax revenues. The investment plan will be financed by the dedicated fund up to $72 M, borrowing by-laws, subsidies and reserves such as the life cycle reserve.
This plan covers the continuation of several major projects currently underway and additional investments, including:
The Municipal Council has adopted a governance structure for development projects. This approach will make it possible to define and set criteria to determine projects eligible for funding under the investment plan project component (PIVP).
The following three stages will be involved in validating development projects:
A year ago, this Municipal Council unanimously passed a program that set out a vision for this mandate. I am proud to see that we are already making headway on our seven major orientations, particularly when it comes to highlighting diversity and inclusion and in terms of addressing the climate emergency and protecting our biodiversity. We are also stepping up our investments in municipal infrastructures commensurate with our residents' needs and priorities—meaning, among other things, our roads—, and improving our best practices pertaining to effectiveness, efficiency and accountability.
In the past few months, we have been gathering data, validating, and making observations enabling us to make an accurate diagnosis. The coming year will be the time for upgrades based on our action plans and our ten-year vision, and making a shift to achieve our ambitions.
The 2023 budget review took place amidst significant disruptions. At the economic level, inflation is having a draining effect on the pocketbooks of our residents and the municipality. It now costs 35% more to purchase salt and de-ice our roads in the winter, and the costs of fuel, asphalt, concrete and professional services are also rising. Gatineau, like other Quebec municipalities, has very little leeway. And on top of it all, they must assume certain costs related to fighting climate change and the new responsibilities imposed by Quebec, such as providing land for new schools. It is important to remember that municipalities depend on property taxes, which, in Gatineau's case, represent 86.2% of the revenues in its budget.
Labour shortages also create pressure. They make it more difficult to keep up the pace and to carry out infrastructure projects within the territory. They compel us to prioritize, be more flexible as an organization, and to better position ourselves as an employer. We need to create a more predictable environment for our partners.
And then there are all the variables that were not even in play just a few months ago, all of which certainly affect the game plan:
Between lucidity, ambitions and your needs, this Council must move ahead with major projects to meet our growing city's needs: a multi-sport complex in the Aylmer sector, greater east-west mobility and dedicated public transit, new cultural infrastructures in the downtown, a new congress centre in the downtown, and more...
Not only must we do all that, but we must also set in place our success factors, for both our organization and our partners. This requires providing the appropriate guidance and tools for our in-house teams, establishing a culture of organizational performance, optimizing the management of our infrastructure projects, and focusing on effective collaborations. We will need more agility and flexibility. I am proud to say that this shift is underway.
We are already better prepared than we were last year:
This very recent long-term financial plan for Ville de Gatineau has helped the Council make informed decisions and do everything it can to limit the municipal tax increase for the coming year. Gatineau's financial health is sound, but we must still remain prudent. Thus, we are presenting:
Compared to the other municipalities, this is one of the lowest in Quebec. The decision in the last budget to allow tax payments to be spread over four instalments can now be implemented, and will come into effect this year. For the first time, Ville de Gatineau will be offering its residents this greater flexibility.
This $744.4 M balanced budget represents a 6.4% increase over the last budget. It brings us back to the difficult balance to be achieved between catch-up and action in the field. For the coming year, we are planning $4.5 M in service improvements for residents:
We are setting up a recurrent investment fund of $1.2 M for land acquisitions to address the housing crisis and meet the requirements to build new schools within our territory. Over the next ten years, this fund should reach close to $80 M.
An additional $1.2 M recurrent fund is planned to finance Gatineau's first climate plan. This fund will eventually add up to $80 M.
That too is a first for Gatineau.
This budget places a strong emphasis on the environment through funding for a biodiversity charter, an urban forestry plan, a water management plan, and a residual materials management program that will involve participation by the industrial, commercial and institutional sector.
The budget review also provided the Council the opportunity to set up a new governance for Gatineau to help it better define its priorities and capacity in terms of investing in and carrying out infrastructure projects. Given that there is no longer any certainty in the current market either in terms of finances or supply chains, the Council will be able to more closely follow progress on projects through regular updates. Any delays or cost increases will be quickly brought to our attention so we can reassess and make decisions based on our environment. New policies on managing the debt and surpluses, and on fees will also make our next budget exercises more productive. That is what I call “bringing more agility to how we do things.”
Clearly, we have to keep working on making Gatineau a model of public administration that focuses on the know-how of its employees and partners. All to meet expectations and contribute to the ultimate objective of offering residents the best possible service.
I congratulate the Council members for the tone of their discussions and for sharing their perspectives throughout this second budget review in our mandate. Thank you for your big city vision. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the entire administration team for their support over the past year and for this exercise.
Thus, in 2023, we will be making a shift to achieve our ambitions. We are marking a shift, a real one, the kind that Gatineau, with its 20 years of experience knows how to do and deserves!
Thank you and good night.
Recognized for its quality of life, Gatineau is a city of 292,000 inhabitants. It is located on the north shore of the Ottawa River, and extends east and west of the Gatineau River.