Calgarians to see 3.8% property tax increase in 2018
Council chose modest tax increases to avoid cuts to key services
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Calgarians will see their property tax bills creep slightly higher in the first post-election budget.
Calgary city council wrapped up budget debate Thursday afternoon. After four days of talks, and with a starting point of modest cuts to most departments, they chose to invest in police, transit, small business, civic partners and the Green Line.
Homeowners will see a 3.8 per cent increase on their tax bill in 2018. That, amounts to $5.95 per month on the average household’s tax bill, or about $71.40 more per year.
The breakdown of that includes 0.8 per cent for a $20 million boost to the police budget, 0.1 per cent to restore planned funding cuts to civic partners, 1.5 per cent to cover a one-time rebate that was given to Calgarians last year from the rainy day fund, and 1.4 per cent to cover $23.7 million in Green Line financing costs each year for the next 27 years.
Coun. Shane Keating noted that the 1.4 per cent increase for the Green Line is not really an increase. The city is simply taking 1.4 per cent of tax revenue that the provincial government said it no longer needs on its share of property taxes.
“It really has nothing to do with the property tax per se,” said Keating. “You could refund it, sure, and it would reduce it, but it’s not raising it.”
Last year, city council voted to refund that $23.7 million in provincial tax room one time only as relief to taxpayers during the downturn. Now it is locked in to be spent on the Green Line for the next 27 years.
Only councillors Jeromy Farkas and Joe Magliocca voted against putting that money to the Green Line. They wanted to see it go back to taxpayers.
“We have to stop this process of finding money on the ground and then deciding what to spend it on,” said Farkas.
However other fiscally conservative councillors, such as Ward Sutherland and Peter Demong, said it was necessary to fund the Green Line with the tax room money.
Sutherland said he was doing it reluctantly, because otherwise the city would have to find an extra $23 million each year in other places.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi called the budget process this year more honest than what citizens might have seen 10 years ago. He said then the budget was more bloated, and councillors would attempt to cut it down.
This budget came from city administration with a small tax cut built in, and councillors chose to eliminate cuts to services they saw as important, such as transit and police.
Nenshi stressed there are still cuts coming to city services.
“There’ll be no more ice skating at Prince’s Island,” said the mayor.
“Boulevards around the city will be mowed four times a year instead of five. And if citizens find that unacceptable, they need to come back to their councillors and say they want those things back.”
Nenshi also had an ask for small businesses. He had campaigned on a tax cap for businesses, and he was able to convince council to come on board with the at idea.
The cost of that was covered by $45 million from the city’s rainy day fund.
See story Page 8