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Calgary homeowners frustrated after getting hit with big property tax bills

The bill is in the mail, and it’s an expensive one for Calgary homeowners
WATCH ABOVE: Some Calgary homeowners are reeling after receiving double-digit property tax hikes. Tomasia DaSilva reports.

It’s a taxing time for some Calgary homeowners who have been hit with double-digit property tax hikes.

Rose Palma owns one home and rents out another. But after getting her tax bill from the city, she’s second guessing whether she wants to be a homeowner in Calgary.

“I think a lot of people got taken back with the sudden increases in the property taxes,” she said.

Palma’s tax installment payments have gone up $45 a month for her own residence, and $47 a month for her rental property.

If those amounts are not adjusted during the tax year, she will be paying an extra $1,100 a year.

“My husband has been unemployed for almost two years now,” she said. “My renter, he lost his job, so they’re only paying me half of what they’re supposed to pay.”

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Like many other Canadians, Palma has had to go to her bank to defer her mortgage and reduce her own payments, so this latest expense comes at a bad time.

“This is really causing us some financial difficulty at this time.”

Calgary homeowner questions property tax hike during pandemic
Calgary homeowner questions property tax hike during pandemic. Global News

READ MORE: Provincial budget will increase Calgary property taxes: report

The city said a combination of the municipal and provincial tax changes resulted in a combined increase to residential taxpayers of 7.55 per cent. But that rate also depends on the change in the market value assessment of an individual home. 
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A spokesperson for Mayor Naheed Nenshi told Global News the city has seen some examples where there has been a larger increase than the average 7.5 per cent, and those cases will be looked into.
When asked generally about property tax hikes and city spending, Nenshi defended both.

“We have increased property taxes by much less than the rate of inflation and population growth,” he said.

“And since the beginning of the economic downturn, we’ve cut the city’s budget by about three-quarters of a billion dollars.”

Nenshi also pointed out the city did a bit of a shift this year, shifting some of the tax burden from struggling small businesses to homeowners.

“We wanted to ask households to pay a little more, about $20 a month more, so we could give businesses a big tax break.”

WATCH: Calgary business owner worried about looming property tax hike

Citizen advocacy group Common Sense Calgary told Global News that while supporting businesses is important, it shouldn’t come at the expense of homeowners.

“Non-residential property taxes are astronomical in Calgary and it’s crippling businesses, so something needed to be done,” executive director Megan McCaffrey agreed. “But the solution wasn’t shifting taxes onto residential homeowners. The solution was to reduce spending at city hall.

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“I think they really need to reconsider their decisions and prioritize Calgarians who are struggling right now.”

Palma said she’s one of many struggling right now, and she’s asking the city for help.

“I don’t think this is the time to hike any taxes,” she said. “Especially with the pandemic. A lot of people lost their jobs. It’s really hard.”

Property tax bills started going out to Calgary households this week.

The City of Calgary has launched a property tax deferral program, allowing business owners and homeowners to defer property tax payments until Sept. 30, 2020, without any penalty fees due to COVID-19.