Montreal Gazette editorial makes a strong case for one unified school system serving all Quebec students.

It’s discrimination in either language

Gazette Editorial

“ It’s almost discriminatory,” said Steve Bletas, chairperson of Laval’s Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, about the fact that homeowners affiliated with the town’s English-language board are being charged a higher school-tax rate than those affiliated with the local French-language board, the Commission scolaire de Laval. While discrimination might not have been the intent of the government measures, as it stands the situation is in fact discriminatory, period.

The problem arises from the Education Department’s formula for calculating school-tax rates and revenue levels that set a maximum school-tax rate as well as a maximum amount of tax revenue a board can collect. That maximum rate is 35 cents per $ 100 home valuation.

At that rate, the French-language board would have exceeded its maximum total amount and was therefore able to lower its rate down to about 30 cents per $ 100 valuation. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, with a substantially smaller tax base, meanwhile needs to tax at the maximum rate to get the money it needs. That means the English board taxes the owner of a $ 400,000 home $ 200 a year more than the francophone board does.

The discrepancy – and unfairness – is even greater in the Laurentian region where anglophone parents are taxed at the Sir Wilfrid Laurier rate while francophones come under a separate board that charges even less than the French-language Laval board.

There is a provision in place for boards, such as Wilfrid Laurier, with a tax base that can’t deliver the maximum total amount of revenue to receive equalization funding to make up the difference. There is a catch, however: To receive the equalization grant a recipient board must tax at the maximum level, which is what has led to the Laval situation. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that only homeowners with children who attend public schools in a given jurisdiction are required to pay taxes to the board whose schools their children attend. Others are free to choose the board to which they wish to pay the school tax, which, given the discrepancy in rates, could understandably prompt Laval anglophones with no children in school to pay their taxes to the French-language board, further eroding Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s tax base.

The board has complained to the Education Department and so far has been put on hold. An aide to minister Michelle Courchesne said late last week that the matter is being studied. The aide added that it is a complex situation in that the school tax formula is based on a range of factors, including size of territory, transportation requirements, the number of schools in a jurisdiction, etc. More simple is the fact that public education is a basic public service for which some people shouldn’t have to pay more than their neighbours, no matter what language they speak.

8 Comments on "Montreal Gazette editorial makes a strong case for one unified school system serving all Quebec students."

  1. I chose to pay school taxes to the English school board not knowing there would be such a discrepancy compared to the FSB. As owner of buildings it cost me $1,000. more than what I paid in the previous year. To the officials: give serious consideration to this matter. My future school tax dollars will go to the French School Board.

  2. I chose to pay school taxes to the English school board not knowing there would be such a discrepancy compared to the FSB. As owner of buildings it cost me $1,000. more than what I paid in the previous year. To the officials: give serious consideration to this matter. My future school tax dollars will go to the French School Board.

  3. I have always been an avid supporter of English language schooling in Quebec. The more languages a person knows (English, French, other) the better off they are. But this has nothing to do with language. Let’s cut through to the reality:

    – Both Laval school boards are tagged as allowed to receive the same amount per student. This is calculated based on several factors including the cost of living in different regions.
    – Since CS de Laval has more tax payers paying school taxes to them, they must lower the tax rate (0.28338) so that they don’t surpass the X amount per student.
    – Sir Wilfrid Laurier must charge the max rate (0.35), but even at that they do not generate the same X amount per student because they have fewer taxpayers as a base. But the government makes up the difference so they end up with the same X amount per student.
    – So regardless of SWL trying to put a “language spin” on this, in the end they get the exact same amount of money per student as the CS de Laval.

    The only person getting screwed here is those of us in Laval whose children are no longer school-aged and who would prefer to support English schools. But now have to think twice about it since it’ll cost us $100-$200 more.

    The real question is why do people (including the government) feel the need to split school boards along linguistic or religious lines. What is important is educating our children properly today. That is what will lead to a healthy society tomorrow.

    We have two official languages in this country. Whether you believe one Quebec school board is the answer, or 1 school board per region is the answer, there is no reason why 1 board cannot properly manage schools of both languages successfully. Funds can be proportionately allocated based on how many students choose to attend which language school. I believe it is infinitely better to put my child on a bus to a school that is a little further away, than to have half-full schools that drain the budget and compromise the quality of the education my child is getting.

    It’s as simple as that. And if someone tries to convince you otherwise, maybe you should look under hood to see what ulterior motives or hidden agenda they have.

  4. This year the rates are as follows per $100 of evaluation:
    Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board: 0.35000
    Commission Scolaire de Laval: 0.28338
    Commission Scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles : 0.33461
    Commission Scolaire des Laurentides: 0.12640
    All other French School Boards: 0.35000
    Despite the French boards lower rates, the school tax revenue from property taxes is as follows:
    Commission Scolaire de Laval: ~20%
    Commission Scolaire des Laurentides: 21.59%
    Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board: ~14%

    Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board has to live with only 14% of income from property taxes and that’s unfair and discriminatory anyway you look at it. Any other suggestion is wrong.
    On the other hand the Board has come up with a 2008-2013 Financial Recover Plan in which Mr Bletas states that : ” Over the next five years, we will be working to recuperate 5.3m$, a sum representing 4% of our complete budget.
    What I don’t get is that my 2009 taxes were $856, 2010 taxes were $1020 ($164 or 16.05% increase), 2011 taxes are $1121 ($101 or 9.04% increase) and projected 2012 taxes are $1226 ($105 or 8.53% increase).

    The board wants to cut 4% over and yet it’s increasing my taxes by ~11% every year or ~34% over 3 years? Now that’s not right either.

    I had 2 children with this Board but the last graduated over 14 years ago. I still with this Board but the increases over the last 3 years are almost what it costs me supporting a child in Africa, so I am questioning if I should continue staying with this Board.


  5. Me thinks the chairman doth bleat too much, doing nothing.

  6. Education is mandatory for all children in Quebec, at least until they reach CEGEP. Why shouldn’t everyone pay equally to ensure this happens? It is old school to bicker about linguistic lines. We should be arguing and lobbying for a proper curriculum and better education services.

  7. Is this the kind of blarney we can expect under the new Gazette owners. Hope not.

  8. Hey Gazette Let’s take it one step further. If I live in a suburb and its population is mostly English and I take a bus through a predominantly French suburb and if I pay more municipal taxes (incl. transportation) than the Francophone getting on the same bus in this predominant French area then according to your argument it is discriminatory. BB I have heard in a long time.
    This is absolutely nuts. I actually pay to read this crap.

    Like the other writer said stop playing the divisive game.

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