4 things to know about Calgary’s proposed four-year budget
The city’s proposed four-year budget was put before council on Wednesday, with staff committing to finding $40 million in efficiencies and a further $60 million by 2022.
The operating budget for 2019 is $4.09 billion and capital spending is pegged at $5.2 billion over the four years — $2.1 billion of that was already approved.
WATCH: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi breaks down the tax increase in terms of cost for the average household.
Property tax hikes
Calgarians will see significant property tax hikes over the four years of the new proposed budget put forward to city council on Wednesday.
Administration put forward in April a range for the possible property tax increases —based on the assessment of a typical household value of $480,000 — of 2.95 per cent to 3.45 per cent for 2019.
City staff is proposing council approve the highest of that range for all four years of the budget — which means a 3.45 per cent hike, or $5.08 per month for the average household, for 2019. Staff has proposed a three per cent hike each year for the following three years.
The range for those three years was 2.5 to three per cent.
The estimated monthly impact of those property tax hikes, including utilities, will be $5.08 for 2019, then $4.85, $5 and $5.15 for the following years.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Wednesday afternoon that a large portion of those hikes comes from the approval of 14 new communities on the outside of Calgary.
“In total, roughly… 2.5 per cent is already spoken for going to these new communities,” he said. “Which means that our tax increase for 2019 is 1.3 per cent, not accounting for growth and then in 2020-2022 about 2.6 per cent each year, which continues our pattern of increasing taxes less than inflation plus growth.”
WATCH: Businesses outside Calgary’s downtown could feel tax increase the most.
Along with property tax, user fees will also be on the rise if the city approves the four-year budget.
Fees for utilities like wastewater, water and stormwater will increase by 32 cents in 2019 with the projection of them reaching 60 cents by 2022.
Fees for the black, green and blue carts will also increase each year of the four years.
Black carts will increase to $6.85 in 2019, then $6.95, $7.05 and $7.15 for each following year.
Blue carts will increase to $8.80 in 2019 and eventually reach $9.25 by 2022.
Green cart fees will jump to $8.65 in 2019, with the fees reaching $9.10 by the end of the four years.
WATCH: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi talks about finding money for a fieldhouse and upgrading legacy facilities after Calgarians voted not to bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.
“This is a budget that invests in stuff that people have told us is important to them while holding the line, as we always do, on taxes and ensuring that our taxes remain the lowest in the country for residents,” Nenshi said.
He added the city is investing in transit, police, snow and ice control and facilities management.
“In terms of capital, things that we’re building, we will continue to build the things that Calgary actually needs, whether it’s roads, water and sewer pipes, recreation and community facilities.”
Calgary Transit fees would see increases across the board through the four years.
Adult single passes would go from $3.30 to $3.40 in 2019, then increase to $3.50, $3.60 and $3.75 for each year after. Monthly adult passes would go from $103 to $106 in 2019, then increase by $3 each year between 2019 and 2022.
Seniors annual transit regular passes will be increased from $135 to $140 in 2019, then see a $5 increase for each year of the budget.
City administration is recommending increases for low income passes as well, both for seniors and adult passes. Seniors low income passes will see a $5 increase each year over the next four years, with the first jump from $20 to $25 in 2019.
Deeply discounted low income passes for bands A, B and C will increase from $5.15 to $5.30, $36.05 to $37.10, and $51.50 to $53 respectively in 2019. It isn’t known how much the fees would increase in the following three years because the city is looking for help from the province to fund the program.
It was also proposed that Calgary Transit reduce the frequency of four-car CTrain service as they work to phase out the older trains.
Nenshi said the city is still working on the Green Line.
Calgary Police Service
Following several calls for more police officers on city streets, the Calgary Police Service won’t see any more officers for the first two years of the budget.
For the first two years of the budget, no new positions will be added.
An additional 60 officers will be added in the last two years, totalling 120 new officers on the service by 2022.
‘Can’t give everybody everything’
Nenshi made it clear that this was not an austerity budget, adding that as elected governors, council has to make “pretty tough decisions.”
“Because we can’t afford to give everybody everything and keep taxes low, but ultimately, we come up with something that makes sense for us,” he said.
“I think most Calgarians would say, ‘You know, you’re keeping up with inflation, that makes sense,’ and that’s precisely what we’re doing.”
He also said that while there’s no solid plan for non-residential taxes, the city is aware and is working to curb the impacts of the high vacancy rate for office space in downtown Calgary.
“It means that downtown businesses are going to get a huge decline in their taxes this year, it’s gonna go way down,” he said. “The businesses outside the downtown, in order to make up for that, are looking at rather large increases.
“What I say to those businesses outside the downtown is, ‘We’ve got your back. We’ve had your back the last couple of years, we probably will not be able to do the same thing we did in the past two years, which is let everyone keep their decreases, but anyone who is increasing cap, [we’ll] it at five per cent.”
WATCH: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the city will have the back of small businesses outside of the downtown who will see tax increases.
Nenshi said it’s expected council will have a solution to the business tax issue in January.
City council will debate the 2019-2022 budget during the week of Nov. 26. The budget won’t be passed until after the Government of Alberta tables its budget, which is expected in April 2019.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.