Calgary city council told about impacts of provincial budget

Click to play video 'Alberta Budget 2019: Nenshi says UCP has ‘some explaining to do’ after 2019 budget cuts' Alberta Budget 2019: Nenshi says UCP has ‘some explaining to do’ after 2019 budget cuts
Alberta Budget 2019: Nenshi says UCP has ‘some explaining to do’ after 2019 budget cuts – Oct 24, 2019

A few days after the release of the provincial budget, Calgary city council got a more in-depth look at the impact that document will have on city operations.

Much has been made about the delaying of funding for the Green Line LRT project. Instead of $550 million over four years, the province is providing just $75 million.

The Alberta government is pledging to still provide the rest of the money but over a longer timeline than what was previously agreed to between the city and the province.

On Monday afternoon, finance officials offered a look at the impacts that the provincial document could have on the city’s capital and operations budget.

It’s a $16-million hit to the operating budget with the police service being hardest hit.

Story continues below advertisement

The province is taking a bigger share of fine revenue, costing police $10 million.

“When fines are collected by the government, they keep a portion of it and the province’s portion of it — up until this budget [that] was 26.7 per cent, and they’ve boosted it up to 40 per cent,” Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld said, adding police will also have to spend an extra $1 million on cannabis enforcement and training.

To top it off, the chief said police may have to spend an extra $2 million on biological case work.

When exhibits are sent for forensic analysis, the province has picked up some of the costs for that, but it looks like a portion of the costs will be transferred to police.

READ MORE: Alberta Budget 2019: Deferred provincial funding puts Calgary’s Green Line LRT ‘in jeopardy’

There will be major challenges to the capital budget with delayed payments from MSI funding and cancellation of other programs.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said some projects may have to be delayed or may not even get started.

“I don’t want anyone to walk away from this thinking everything is going to heck in a handbasket, but it is tough,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s going to mean we are going to have to delay or defer or cancel some capital projects, things like parks, recreation facilities, bridges and roads, because that’s where we’re seeing a bit of a cut.”

Nenshi said the delays in MSI funding over the years has cost the city $145 million in interest payments, money the mayor said could have been used to build fire halls.

READ MORE: Calgary mayor predicts property taxes will go up as result of Alberta provincial budget downloading

The city will also have to pass an additional $15.4 million burden onto taxpayers as the province increased the amount of the provincial requisition, which used to be known as education taxes.

Councillor Jeromy Farkas told members of council that their actions have led to these issues.

“At the end of the day, we have so strongly limited our ability to be able to navigate these uncertain times, leaving us holding the bag,” he said, pointing to this being what Calgarians wanted when they elected 23 of 26 UCP MLAs.

That led to a response from the mayor.

“I look forward, Councillor Farkas, to your letter to Premier [Doug] Ford in Ontario, telling him that he must abandon everything he was elected to do because the Liberals won the Federal seats in Ontario,” Nenshi said. “I think that’s the exact foolishness that we just heard here.”
Story continues below advertisement

Nenshi said the city over the past few years has cut $641 million from its operating budget and reduced its debt by $700 million.

“I will not be lectured by someone who calls this council spendthrift when we have the lowest taxes in the country and the highest citizen satisfaction ratings in the country,” he said.

The next step for council is to deal with budget adjustments next month as administration presents three scenarios; either a three per cent property tax hike, a 1.5 per cent hike or no increase at all.

Finance officials said they will take the impact of the provincial budget into the calculations of those budgets.