Three Calgary city councillors are proposing a five-per cent cut across all city departments, except essential services.
City council next week will deal with adjustments to the 2020 budget and they’ll be looking at three possible scenarios which include a zero-per cent property tax hike.
However, that’s not good enough for Joe Magliocca, Sean Chu and Jeromy Farkas.
Ward 2 councillor Magliocca says he had an accountant take a look at the numbers and believes there are $50 million in savings in the operating budget with a five-per cent cut to operating budgets that don’t include the police, fire and transit budgets.
“We looked from the cemeteries right down to the arts, right down to communication, all of them,” said Magliocca, who says there is ample room to cut but did not have specifics on what should be eliminated, leaving it to administration.
“Well it’s up to them. We just want five per cent to be cut and that’s administration’s job.”
That drew the ire of colleague Shane Keating.
“You can’t stand here and say, ‘Do this,’ offer no solutions and yet are willing to continually go down this path of slash and burn.
“It’s just ludicrous, that’s all I can say.”
Keating said when you consider police, fire and transit make up more than 75 per cent of the city’s operating budget, finding savings from all other city departments will have drastic impacts.
“I would say in many cases you’re talking about across-the-board slashing of many services without evaluation, without determination if these are the things residents want to see and not see.”
Last year during budget debates, Farkas attempted the same proposal to cut five per cent from the operating budget and failed but believes there may be more support this year.
“Taxpayers are bled out. We’re on the brink. After five years of this economic downturn, we have to shift course.”
“It’s a financial fairy tale, what they’ve proposed,” Ward 8 councillor Evan Woolley said.
“This is pure political gamesmanship. It is impossible without completely cutting out business units like the parks department, recreation. You’ll be cutting whole departments out and services that I think Calgarians feel are important.”
Woolley said he finds it ironic that Chu and Magliocca are pushing for these cuts when earlier in the year they were in favour of the city providing $275 million of taxpayer money for a new arena.
Besides the $50 million in savings from the cuts, Chu, Magliocca and Farkas believe another $50 million will be saved if city workers take a five per cent wage rollback.
City council begins its budget adjustment debate on Monday, and while the majority of council seem to favour a zero-per cent property tax hike for next year, there’s still the thorny issue of the tax shift that has to be dealt with.
Because of dropping property values in the downtown core, other businesses in the city are having to pay a disproportionate share of taxes.
City council is looking to reduce that burden and part of it may be to increase the share by residential rate payers so, while there may be no increase in what’s approved, homeowners’ taxes may still increase.