More than 8,000 residents pay taxes to the English school board
The Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) has received an unprecedented number of requests from taxpayers looking to switch from a French school board to the WQSB.
“We’ve received close to 9,000 requests,” said WQSB DG Paul Lamoureux; “usually we receive between 500 and 1,000 demands annually.”
One reason for the requests is because the WQSB tax rate is low as compared to the 10 nearby Francophone school boards.
The 2015-2016 tax rate for the Commission scolaire des Draveurs (CSD) in Gatineau, Val-des-Monts, Denholm and Cantley is $0.30281 per $100 of the municipal evaluation. The rate for the Commission scolaire des portages (CSPO) serving Hull, Aylmer, Chelsea, La Pêche, and the Municipality of Pontiac, is 0,252$ per $100, while the WQSB’s tax rate is $0.22542. “The tax rates of French boards vary greatly,” said Lamoreux.
According to the Ministry of Education, the board’s tax rate, plus the municipal property assessment, set the actual amount. Each school board sets its tax rate as it adopts its budget.
“The majority of our calls (over 4,000) were from the ex-City of Gatineau,” noted Lamoureux. That territory is served by the CSD. “We don’t ask the reason why they are switching, [but] it can represent a substantial saving. Clearly, the word got out [that the WQSB tax rate is lower].”
The WQSB promoted its lower tax rate in 2015. To switch school boards, the home owner must meet certain qualifications, and residents may pay school taxes to the school board of their choice if none of their children attend school.
“This points to a significant interest within the whole community in supporting English language schools,” WQSB Chairman James Shea told the Bulletin. “People are aware that there’s an English-language board in their jurisdiction. They want their tax dollar to support English schools. More than 80% of those who switched moved from a French board to the WQSB. In the past, it was a wash, so this is very positive,” said Mr. Shea, who promoted the campaign last year.
With so many taxpayers switching, the WQSB will receive more tax dollars, but not necessarily a greater cash flow. The cost to educate a child is fixed across the province, so more tax revenue can just mean less provincial funding. However, a larger tax base gives the WQSB more flexibility.
“You can support a school system by sending your child to that school system or you can demonstrate your support by paying your taxes to a school board,” commented Shea.
The Ministry of Education adds that “school taxes traditionally serve to finance administrative activities and help defray school busing costs.”