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'Do the right thing': Calgarians speak as council considers property tax hike

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Ahead of debate and discussion on a proposal to bump up Calgary's residential property tax rate by nearly eight per cent, dozens of people packed city hall to have their say on next year's budget.

City administration is recommending changes to next year's budget that could see residential property taxes hiked by 7.8 per cent – about $16 per month for the typical single-family home.

Forty-three speakers lined up before council and more than 250 submitted budget feedback online. The majority of the public submissions were against the proposed tax increase.

"I constantly have to make difficult and strategic decisions as to how I'm going to spend my remaining $185 a month after fixed expenses and groceries are paid for – and I'm one of the lucky ones," said Calgarian Arthur Gallant, who pleaded to council for more rent relief and affordability assistance.

"Do the right thing, Calgary city council."

Monday was set aside for public hearings on the budget before councillors question administration on Tuesday. Amendments, debate and a vote are all expected to happen before the end of the week.

City officials are suggesting a series of budget adjustments, including increased spending due to inflation and population growth and investments to tackle housing and safety issues.

Council will also have to decide whether to shift more of the tax burden from businesses to residential property owners.

"I'm actually quite comfortable with the rate in front of us," said Kourtney Penner, the Ward 11 councillor.

"The investments that we are contemplating do a number of things. One, they address a lot of the concerns that have been put forward in citizen satisfaction surveys," she said.

Council has already approved a residential tax increase of 3.4 per cent. The boosted spending would add another 2.4 per cent to that number and the tax shift, if approved, would result in another two per cent.

"I'm not comfortable with 7.8 (per cent). I've been very vocal about that," said Sonya Sharp, Ward 1 councillor.

Sharp says she plans on introducing an amendment that would bring down the proposed tax hike.

Representatives from the Calgary Chamber of Commerce were among the first to speak to council on Monday morning. They pitched a more aggressive tax shift from business to residential that would double what's proposed by administration.

"When businesses are seeing over $1,000 a month in terms of property tax increases over the last five years, that's something that we have to pay attention to," said Deborah Yedlin, the chamber's CEO.

Tuesday will start with questions to the Calgary Police Service about its budget allocation. 

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