Calgary’s 11 business revitalization zones (BRZ) represent about 55,000 jobs — some of which are in jeopardy if something isn’t done to ease the tax burden on businesses, according to local business groups and city councillors.
“I have a couple of examples where some of my businesses don’t even take home any pay whatsoever just to keep the doors open right now,” said Alison Karim-McSwiney, executive director with the International Avenue BRZ, on Sunday.
She said tax increases of up to 20 per cent in one year have pushed several businesses on 17 Avenue S.E. to shut their doors.
“I think the council has an extremely hard task ahead of them, but I think it’s really important that we try and keep our main streets open, keep the employment that we have going and really shift the burden from non-residential to residential,” Karim-McSwiney said.
Empty downtown office buildings have translated into business owners outside the core taking on bigger tax bills. City councillors will offer up solutions at Monday’s council meeting.
“It’s never an easy thing to say to people, ‘Your property taxes are going to go up,'” said Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek on Sunday.
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She wants to immediately shift the tax burden to 50-50 between residential and non-residential properties. That would mean about an extra $100 over four years on an average home.
“For an average homeowner whose assessed value is about $475,000, we have already approved in the budget that their incremental increases by year four would see them paying about $392 more than what they paid in 2018. What we are proposing now would have them at about $500,” Gondek said.
“Right now, our business community is paying about 54.5 per cent,” she added. “They are generating about $67 billion in assessed value whereas residential properties are about $214 billion. There is a big difference that we need to start equalizing.”
Gondek is also proposing rebates that would come from the city’s savings fund to help residential property owners. While Gondek is not sure how much will be decided this week at city hall, at the very least, council needs to finalize the 2019 tax rates, she said.
“What needs to happen on Monday, is we need to figure out what the rate is going to be, but I don’t believe you can set a rate without understanding the underlying context that we are presently in. And if that means doing a shift to get us to the appropriate rate, then we need to do it,” Gondek said.
Councillors will also consider budget cuts as well as selling city real estate assets.