Calgary city council has voted to shift some of the city’s tax burden from businesses to homeowners.
The shift means an increase of 7.5 per cent for the average homeowner — which works out to about $150 per year.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it still leaves Calgary with the lowest residential property taxes in Canada.
By 5:30 p.m. on Friday the city had passed the budget for 2020 by a close 8-7 margin.
The approval came after a new proposal from councillors Diane Colley-Urquhart and Jyoti Gondek, who together suggested a means of preventing a big property tax hike and preserving city services.
That remedy, the councillors said, would involve taking a one-time chunk of money from the city’s corporate program savings and applying it to the city’s budget.
The two councillors said the money from that fund is available because the city’s investments have been successful.
Doing this, according to the councillors, would keep tax increases in 2020 at about $14 for the average Calgary homeowner and avoid cuts to important services.
“What we are proposing is that we keep those services in place, that we restore the emergency response station to fire, we keep the police service whole, we make sure that people have a low-income transit pass and we make sure that those hours that we cut on transit are restored on the overloaded routes,” Gondek said.
“To do that, what we’re proposing is taking one-time money from a corporate programs account, which is been managed very well.”
Some councillors, however, said shifting that $24 million to the 2020 budget would postpone dealing with the city’s financial problems.
“Calgarians have told us we can’t keep addressing this with band-aid solutions. I find it actually kind of ridiculous,” Councillor Jeromy Farkas said.
“Council can increase spending, bring in more one-time money, then leave this to the next council, after the next election to deal with? No, we have to pull off the band-aids now. We have to get to the root causes of it.”
After appeals from several groups and individuals not to raise the cost of the low-income transit pass, the budget will keep the price of the pass around $5 per month.
Proposal to scrap arena deal voted down
Councillors also voted against Councillor Evan Woolley’s motion to reconsider spending city money on a new arena for the Calgary Flames.
The proposal came as councillors continue to finalize the city’s 2020 budget
Woolley had proposed the $290 million the city is planning to contribute to the arena instead be spent elsewhere, with $200 million dollars going toward the Green Line LRT project and the rest split evenly between providing social housing and building a downtown police station.
Council voted 11-4 against Woolley’s motion on Friday — the same margin that approved the arena deal in July 2019.
“What’s disappointing about this is, if everything is on the table why wasn’t this on the table?” Woolley said following the vote.
“If we’ve asked Calgarians to dig deep, if we’ve asked transit to dig deep, if we’re looking deeply on all the projects that we’re delivering on, why is it that a capital project that will benefit the few and will help a single private company that owns the Calgary Flames — why are they immune?”
Councillors who voted to continue with the plan to fund the event centre said they’d thoroughly considered all the benefits the project would bring.
“The world around us has not changed since July and for the councillors who are really trying to detract from the project, going out there saying we’re cutting police and fire and the world is ending before us, it’s just not true,” Councillor Jeff Davison said.
“We’re investing in a capital project that will ultimately pay for itself and provide a net socio-economic benefit to all Calgarians.”