Calgary Fire Department could face $9M budget cut
The Calgary Fire Department could be facing up to a $9 million cut to its budget, as city council attempts to find $60 million in savings to ease the rising property tax burden on small business.
According to the Calgary Firefighters Association (CFA), the cuts will have to come directly from the CFD’s 2019 operating budget.
CFA President Mike Henson, says he hasn’t been made aware of what areas could be cut, but says the move will directly impact all Calgarians who rely on emergency fire services.
“In the last four years I believe that the chief and his administration have cut all the back of house so that leaves only frontline services, which could be cut now.”
Henson says more cuts to the CFD operating budget could also mean fire crews take even longer to respond to calls.
According to the City of Calgary, the CFD achieves its self-imposed seven minute response time on less than 85 per cent of its calls.
“We’re understaffed now as it is so longer response times are certainly a possibility,” Henson said.
“The city decided to cut the class of 40 CFD recruits that was going to start work on July 15 so that will put us further understaffed.”
The CFD has already had a $20 million cut from its budget over the last four years.
Henson says frontline services are at risk and he doesn’t believe the city should make such drastic cuts.
“Obviously the small business community has been very vocal and said they can’t pick up the share of those taxes,” he said. “It’s not going to be a popular thing, but perhaps residential taxes have to increase to make up that money? We live in an A1 city with A1 services, if we want those services someone has to pay for them.”
The City of Calgary’s property tax calculator shows that the CFD accounts for 7.8 per cent of the city’s annual budget. The $9 million cut would be 15 per cent of the $60 million in savings that council is aiming for.
“I’m heartsick and really torn up about it,” said Ward 9 Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, who has previously pushed city council to keep heavy rescue equipment at the Ogden fire station.
“Because of the capriciousness of the system we’re locked into, we have to cut the fire department and our emergency services that I fought so hard for are now on the chopping block to save the businesses that I fight so hard for,” said Carra,
“So it’s a really horrific situation to be in.”
Carra said the city is finding a band-aid solution this year, but needs to talk about changes to the tax shift moving forward.
City administration is set to reveal the details of the budget cut package at a council meeting sometime in late July.