Calgarians can weigh in on 2020 city budget at all-day public consultation hearing
CALGARY — Calgarians will get their chance to give feedback Monday on the city’s 2020 budget during an all-day public consultation hearing at city hall.
It comes as councillors are tasked with proposing cuts to the operating budget in an effort to keep tax increases minimal, or static, for homeowners and small businesses.
Three options are currently on the table, including the choice to stick with an already-approved 3.03 per cent tax hike on homeowners for 2020. Earlier this year, council also asked administration to present other scenarios, including a 1.5 per cent tax hike and also a tax freeze.
City staff has revealed three scenarios will likely result in the following implications:
A zero per cent tax increase
This change would mean the average homeowner would save $5.10 per month, but it would result in an $8.45-million cut to the police budget and the loss of 236 full-time city jobs.
Under a zero per cent tax scenario, there would also be a $6.7-million cut to the fire and emergency services’ budget. Transit services would also be affected as a result of a projected $8.3 million cut in spending.
A 1.5 per cent tax increase
Increasing property taxes by 1.5 per cent would mean the average homeowner saves $2.60 per month, but there would still be a $3.4-million cut to the fire and emergency services budget. It’s estimated about 178 full time city jobs would be eliminated as a result.
Keeping the approved 3.03 per cent tax hike
Maintaining the already approved 3.03 per cent tax hike would mean the average homeowner would pay $5.10 more per month. As a result, both fire and police budgets would be protected.
The businesses/residential tax shift is also expected to be decided on Thursday.
Some small businesses have seen their property tax bills double or even quadruple as a result of a drop in the assessed value of the downtown core.
Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas calls the tax shift the big “elephant in the room,” and says he doesn’t want to see increases for either homeowners or businesses.
Farkas instead is proposing a five per cent spending reduction at city hall. Joined alongside Coun. Sean Chu and Coun. Joe Magliocca, the group is hoping to find $50-million in spending cuts with a focus on cuts to areas like art, bike lanes and the city's communication departments, while maintaining front line services.
“I strongly believe we can maintain essential services and have modest decreases of others,” Farkas said.
“Another thing to remember though is that zero doesn’t mean zero at city hall and even in the zero per cent scenario, spending is still going up by tens of millions of dollars and homeowners could still see a six to eight per cent increase.”
Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said his "nightmare scenario" would be for council to approve a big tax shift, while also cutting spending.
"What that means is the average residential home in Calgary will see a massive increase in taxes for a massive decrease in the services they receive, so obviously that can't happen," he said.
Coun. Jyoti Gondek called getting the right tax shift balance, "absolutely critical."
"When people don't have jobs, they can't live in their homes," she said. "I know that sounds overly simplified but we have got to take care of our business community and we have to take care of our residents as well, and the two go hand-in-hand. People need to be able to work, we need to be charging the right amount to each party."
Earlier this summer, council made a $60-million budget cut and provided a one-time, $70-million rebate that saw businesses pay 10 per cent less in 2019 compared to the year before.
An assessment tax shift group presented its findings to city hall back in October and came back with solutions, including a 50-50 property tax split between homeowners and businesses. The majority of the group was in favour of a 51-49 shift in favour of homeowners, but a 52-48 split in favour of businesses was also presented.
Anyone wishing to speak at Monday’s public consultation hearing is asked to register with the City Clerk’s Office at 403-268-5861.