The city has passed its 2018 operating budget – and it means you’ll be paying 3.8 per cent more in property taxes than you did last year.
The budget includes an initial 0.9 per cent tax hike with an additional 1.5 per cent added on to cover off last year’s rebate and 1.4 per cent in provincial tax room to fund debt servicing costs for the Green Line LRT.
“If we didn’t pay for it now then we would have to find, in total, about $600 million over the next 30 years which, of course, is a huge number. That $600 million would be the third or fourth largest public works project in Calgary’s history,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said, explaining why the city needed to be thinking about the Green Line when it put together the budget.
A last-ditch effort by Councillor Jeromy Farkas to cut $5 million from the operating budget failed Thursday, with councillors voting 9-6 against the motion.
Farkas expressed disappointment with the decision, saying it wouldn’t have been difficult to cut $5 million as the overall budget is being increased.
“I’ve only been here a month and I just realized just how cozy it is, how fuzzy it is,” he said.
“Having been on the campaign, knocking on more than 60,000 doors, every night I heard about it: families who are out of work, businesses making do. It’s time that we show that we understand what’s going on in the real world.”
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Nenshi said he believes the budget is fair.
“I think there are cuts in it, certainly, but I think most citizens would think those cuts are things we can live with because they don’t focus on things that really make a difference to their lives,” he said.
“That said, there are cuts in it. There will be no more ice skating at Prince’s Island; boulevards around the city will be mowed four times a year instead of five, and if citizens find that to be unacceptable, then they need to come back to councillors and say, ‘We want those things back.’”
Council approved an extra $20.8 million for Calgary police as part of the budget and restored $1.34 million to civic partners. They also restored $4 million to the transit budget to avoid a number of service cuts, though that was a one-time cash injection and didn’t impact the operating budget.
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Council also agreed to continue a program that would limit the non-residential property tax increase.
Last year, council approved $45 million to soften the blow on businesses outside of the downtown core, which were hit with massive market value assessments that increased their taxes.
The money comes from the Fiscal Sustainability Reserve Fund – the city’s so-called rainy day fund.
– With files from News Talk 770’s Aurelio Perri