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Calgary’s chief financial officer ​unveils tax payment delay program amid COVID-19 pandemic

City of Calgary launches property tax deferral program
Calgary business owners and homeowners will be able to defer property tax payments until Sept. 30, 2020, without any penalty fees due to COVID-19. Michael King reports.

Councillors met on Monday for the second time since the City of Calgary declared a state of local emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The combined meeting of council was held at 9:30 a.m. with councillors participating remotely instead of in person.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: State of local emergency extended for Calgary as city makes service changes

City council voted to defer property tax payments to the end of September without penalty.

Among the items on the agenda was a presentation from the city’s chief financial officer Carla Male.

Financial hardship plans

Male laid out a plan called the Payment Delay program to help Calgary taxpayers who are facing financial hardship during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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The plan will allow homeowners to delay paying their property taxes from June 30 to Sept. 30 penalty-free. Normally, taxes are due at the end of June.

Penalties will be charged on any property tax balances that remain outstanding on Oct. 1. The penalty will be seven per cent.

People who are on the Tax Installment Payment Plan​, a program where tax payments are spread out over 12 months, can contact 311 or go to the city’s website to request cancellation of the TIPP program.

Property owners who are able to pay their taxes are encouraged to do so.

Male also warned of the “significant declines” in revenue the city is now experiencing.

Transit ridership is down with a revenue loss of $10 to 12 million per month. Revenue from traffic fines, recreation and water utilities has also seen drops since the start of the pandemic.

The city said it will lose $3 million in revenue because recreation facilities have been closed. ​

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Male said no spending has been stopped at this point when it comes to capital spending.

City manager David Duckworth said administration will deliver more ideas for council to look at regarding help for citizens and businesses soon.

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“I wish we were here today with a bigger list of things that council could consider but we’re not quite there yet,” he said.

“I’m pretty confident within the next week and a half to two weeks we will have more ideas that council can then consider for residents and businesses.”

Mayor Naheed Nenshi pointed out that Calgary is in a difficult situation because the city is not allowed to run a deficit.

“We are not in a position to forgive the taxes because we have to balance our budget,” Nenshi said.

Some councillors asked if money could be taken from the Opportunity Investment Fund, which was created to try and entice businesses to move to Calgary and help fill some of the empty offices in the downtown. A question was also raised about whether money could be taken from capital projects.

“Those are approximately the most financial illiterate ideas I’ve ever heard,” said Nenshi, who added that after the pandemic is over, the city has to be ready for recovery.

Council heard from a citizen member of a task force — set up to deal with COVID-19 and recovery — who said businesses need more than a deferral of taxes.​

“Deferring something today means [the city] will get all [its] money back and [businesses] will not incur the income to pay that wholly back, so we need to have all that considered,” said Chad McCormick, a task force member and partner at TMAC Restaurant Group.
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Gondek on property taxes

Speaking to Global News ahead of the meeting, Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek said she expected council members will use the information outlined in the presentation to make a decision about “what we’re doing for property taxes this year.”

Calgary councillors meet remotely Monday amid COVID-19 pandemic
Calgary councillors meet remotely Monday amid COVID-19 pandemic

“We’ve already got the province saying it’s willing to do a deferral and we have to be in step with that because we are the collector for the province, so we’re going to need to co-ordinate that,” Gondek explained.

“Above and beyond that, we need to see what our financial picture is in terms of liquidity, so we know how much money we have for a financial aid program. We need to make some decisions on how that’s going to get spent.”

READ MORE: Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada

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“When it comes to property taxes, what I’m hearing is people need a break,” Gondek added.

“Some people are talking about reducing them for this year. There’s obviously people talking about waiving property taxes. The issue becomes, I don’t think people understand completely sometimes that the only revenue stream we have, that pays for our operating costs is property taxes.”

– With files from Global News’ Lauren Pullen, Aurelio Perri and Melissa Gilligan