City Administration’s recommended investments address housing crisis, improve transit and public safety

On Nov. 25 of last year, Council approved the 2023-2026 Service Plans and Budgets, directing City Administration to continue the work of improving our communities and enhancing the lives of Calgarians. Now, one year into the four-year cycle, the annual plan and budget adjustments present an opportunity for Council to make changes based on today’s environment. The adjustments provide a space to address both technical, straight-forward accounting requirements, like carrying forward a project’s unspent dollars to be spent the next year, as well as new investment opportunities.

“Administration has worked hard to keep property tax and user fee increases low for Calgarians over the last several years, and we know affordability continues to be incredibly important,” said Chief Administrative Officer David Duckworth. “Our aim is to balance the desire to keep increases affordable with the need for additional investment in priority areas like affordable housing, public safety, and transit as Calgary experiences record population growth.”

As the order of government closest to our residents, we are called upon to do more and more due to expectations in big urban centres. Compared to the federal and provincial governments that have tax sources such as income taxes, general sales taxes, and royalty revenues, Canadian cities have only property taxes, and cannot run deficits. This has resulted in a municipal fiscal gap between Calgary and the federal and provincial governments of an annual average of $311 million in increased costs or funding shortfalls.  

 The City of Calgary has managed its finances responsibly over the last decade. Compared to other large municipalities in Canada, Calgary has had low increases, and even decreases, in property taxes with the average annual tax increase from 2019-2023 at 1.19 per cent. And overall, residential water and waste and recycling customers with typical water consumption have seen their bills remain roughly the same over the past five years.

There are other increasing pressures on The City as well. Calgary is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada and inflationary pressures continue. Additionally, global challenges such as economic conditions and inflation, labour and supply shortages, growth, climate change and geopolitical conflicts are impacting our corporate capacity, funding availability, procurement and affordability. They are also contributing to social and public safety concerns. Issues like mental health, public safety, affordability and inflation are all factors that are affecting Calgarians’ quality of life as identified in our Fall Survey of Calgarians. These recommended investments will help to address the housing crisis, provide better and safer transit, and contribute to the overall safety of our city, helping to keep Calgary ranked as one of the top cities in the world.

Should Council approve all the proposed investments and the recommended redistribution of taxes for 2024, total costs for the typical single residential home including property tax, water, sewer and waste and recycling are proposed to increase by approximately $16 per month (close to 5 per cent).

“Calgary’s property taxes remain competitive,” said Chief Financial Officer Carla Male. “We know we need to be smart with your money. We are thinking about not just today, but tomorrow as well. We are ensuring that each dollar spent creates the most value for our community and the people that live here. That’s why we have used every tool available to offset the recommended tax increase, looking at all revenue sources to ensure that we would only use an increase in tax revenue and user fees as a last resort. Council will now be seeking to find the right balance for our city, making final decisions the week of Nov. 20.”

Businesses are set to pay over four and half times the amount of property tax paid by residents for every dollar of assessment. We’ve proposed a three-year plan to better balance the tax share between businesses and homeowners. Shifting the tax share from non-residential to residential by one per cent per year for the next three years will reduce the tax rate ratio, support legislative compliance, and improve the balance of tax responsibility between residents and businesses. Rebalancing tax responsibility from businesses to residents is anticipated to increase Calgary’s attractiveness to businesses. This in turn will lead to a more diverse local economy, stimulate economic growth, create jobs, expand the economy, and provide a stable revenue stream for The City. 

Calgarians can share what is most important to them with Council on Nov. 20 by filling out the form at Submissions can either be written or presented to Council remotely or in person. Language or translator services are also available.

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