On Monday, Calgary City Council received a rundown of the financial impacts of the new provincial budget.
The area causing the most concern — property tax increases.
After learning about the 11.3 per cent increase residents will now see on their property tax bills, Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas said it’s important for the government to be transparent on where the money is going.
“When there are increases, I think it’s really important for us to be accountable and transparent in terms of where those increases are going,” Farkas said.
“At minimum, we should have two different bills, one making very clear what’s the city’s portion and what is the province’s portion.”
“When we’re talking about property taxes a lot of Calgarians assume it’s all city council or city hall collecting those property taxes. Whereas at this point, a significant portion of that is going directly to the province.”
The increase is due to the UCP government raising education taxes for Calgarians.
The median assessed home with a value of $455,000 will see an extra $11 a month go to provincial coffers with these new increases.
Several council members are asking for property tax bills to provide clarification on how much money stays in the city and how much goes to the province.
“We need to be very clear about what stays in the city and what leaves the city,” Ward 6 Councillor Jeff Davison said.
“The unfortunate part is that we are the tax collector and we want to make it clear: While you live in the city of Calgary, you also live in the province of Alberta, and we’re just the facilitator who goes out to collect on behalf of everybody.”
The municipal portion of the property tax bill will also be going up.
Because of the moves made by council in November to accommodate the tax shift problem and a provincial funding shortfall of $13 million for police, the municipal portion of residential taxes are increasing 7.51 per cent.
For the median assessed home that’s an extra $12.50 a month going to the city.
The positive news from the provincial budget is that non-residential taxes are not increasing.
Non-residential ratepayers will see a drop of 12.25 per cent in their property taxes. For a property valued at $5 million that means a decrease of $13,356 a year in taxes.
Cuts in maintenance to affordable housing units was also a topic of discussion at Monday’s meeting.
There was a forewarning that 100 affordable housing units — owned by the province but maintained by the city — could be closed this year without maintenance.
Ward 7 Councillor Druh Farrell, also chair of the Calgary Housing Company, said there are units in appalling condition.
“Calgary Housing Company does not want to be a slum landlord,” she said.
“We’re going to be releasing photos of those units shortly just to show the state of these units.”
Farrell said maintenance dollars saves money in the long-run.
She hopes the province will have a change of hearts on these cuts, a sentiment echoed by Farkas.
“I’m all on board with the cost-cutting agenda that the province is trying to execute on, but we can’t be shortsighted in how we go about that,” Farkas said.
“When it comes to essential services, whether that’s police or fire or essential things like structural repairs, we can’t scale back there because it’s only going to cost us more in the long run.”
A report that went to council on Monday also stated that the province will be taking an additional $4 million from Calgary Police Service.