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Calgary councillors call on Alberta government to reform property tax assessments

A group of Calgary councillors is hoping to encourage the Alberta government to reform property tax assessments.
A group of Calgary councillors is hoping to encourage the Alberta government to reform property tax assessments. Global News

Four Calgary councillors have joined together to push for provincial reform in the wake of Calgary’s ongoing economic downturn and tax shift crisis.

Ward 6 Coun. Jeff Davison, Ward 1 Coun. Ward Sutherland, Ward 14 Coun. Peter Demong and Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek are asking the mayor to write a letter to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu to create a task force to oversee property tax reform.

The group will file a notice of motion at Monday’s strategic meeting of council that also calls for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to draft and vote on a similar resolution.

The motion, which will be discussed by councillors next week, states the city has approved $216 million in “one-time” phased tax programs (PTP) over the past three years, but that hasn’t stopped huge tax increases that have threatened businesses.

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READ MORE: Future still uncertain for small businesses in Calgary as city hikes tax rates

The motion outlines the ongoing efforts council made last year to ease large tax increases for residential and non-residential property owners, including:

  • Operating budget cuts totalling $130 million
  • Capital spending deferrals
  • Directing administration to find further permanent reductions to the operating budget in the amount of $24 million in 2020 and another $50 million in 2021
  • Creating a tax shift assessment working group to steward changes in the property tax processes within the municipal jurisdiction
  • Creating a financial task force to recommend changes in property tax processes within both provincial and municipal jurisdictions

READ MORE: Calgary city council votes to shift some tax burden from businesses to homeowners

In last year’s budget, council extended the PTP for another year and shifted the property tax ratio to 52 per cent for residential and 48 per cent for non-residential.

Property tax assessments fall under provincial jurisdiction.

The councillors say the city’s ongoing efforts cannot adequately address the systemic issues arising from the current tax assessment system, and that is leading to uncertainty and unsustainable increases.

“We’ve been talking about tax assessment reform for a long time,” Davison told Global News. “We’re coming to that critical point where we can no longer continue under the current budget constraints that we have — to continue to use one-time capital, moving forward, on a problem like this.

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“We really have to look at  the bigger picture and figure out what the long-term solution looks like.

“The province is the one who has the power — under the Municipal Government Act — to actually help us make these changes,” Davidson added. “As we’re hearing all across the province, tax assessment reform is needed, and it’s time for that larger conversation to happen.”