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Calgary budget: Here’s a primer on what’s coming up this week

It’s a big week for Calgary city council as they look at budget adjustments for the 2020 budget year.

Among potential budget cuts, Calgary needs to figure out the residential / non-residential tax split, they need to decide on the tax rate, and then they need to determine if and how cuts are going to be made in a variety of areas.

Let’s get you up to speed. We’ll give you the Calgary budget basics and then point you to deeper reads on these topics.

Property tax rates

This is what’s kept with a 3% property tax increase.

Councillors have three property tax options in front of them, each comes with its suite potential cuts or tax bill increases. Council did previously agree to the 3.03 per cent increase for 2020.

3.03% increase – This means that nothing will see a cut and all city services current levels. It does, however mean a $5.10 per month increase to the property tax bill for the average homeowner.

1.5% increase – This means city administration will have to find $26.5 million in reductions, and it still means homeowners will likely see a $2.60 per month increase to the typical tax bill. It does, however, cover the $13.5 million lost in police revenue with the provincial budget. One other major cut in this level is $3.4 million to the fire department. This will be covered in the delay of a temporary fire station in the community of Livingston. In this version, 178 full-time-employment (FTE) positions would be lost.

Overall, there are 56 service reduction lines in this version.

0% increase – This option requires a $52.5 million reduction to Calgary’s operating budget. All the cuts in the 1.5 per cent option are in this one, plus others. These include (but are not limited to):  $3 million less for Civic Partners, a further 58 FTE jobs, $8.45 million reduction in police funding, delays in new transit service, decrease in urban tree canopy.

Here’s some additional reading on these items.

Calgary budget: Tax shift scenarios

Last week, city councillors punted this decision to the budget adjustment discussion.

This is the ratio of the city’s property tax share that lies on homeowners (residential) and businesses (non-residential). Here’s a breakdown of the different ratios and what it means to the typical home and business owner.  

Of note, should city council approve a zero per cent tax increase (above), but shift the ratio to 52 per cent of the tax revenue from homeowners and 48 per cent to businesses, the typical homeowner could see an increase of $11 per month on their property tax bill.

Many businesses, however, would see a substantial decrease in their property tax rate. With that said, the Phased Tax Program (which subsidized businesses in 2018 and 2019) would end and though the rates would be lower, many business tax bills would still increase.

Other items in the Calgary budget discussion

One area where Calgarians can expect to pay substantially more is in the use of city recreation facilities. Proposed fees in the One Calgary budget adjustments for 2020 will now be charged monthly.

Here are some of the proposed fee changes:

  • Seniors, Pools and Fitness Centres / Leisure Centres – $338.41 (2019 annual) to $36.90 monthly ($442.80 annually). This represents a nearly 30 per cent increase.
  • Adults, Pools and Fitness Centres / Leisure Centres – $676.82 (2019 annual) to $61.50 monthly ($738 annually). This represents a roughly 10 per cent increase.
  • Youth, Pools and Fitness Centres – $336.41 / Leisure Centres – (2019 annual) to $30.75 monthly ($369 annually). This represents a roughly 10 per cent increase.

Children six to 12 will get a break with their annual pass the same as youth in 2019, but it will drop to $20 per month or $240 annually.

Similar changes are also being made for the Tier 1 and Tier 2 Aquatic and Fitness Centres.

Music festival ticket surcharge

Another fee being proposed as a pilot project for 2020 is a $1 per ticket / per day fee added to for-profit concerts in City of Calgary parks.

The first is scheduled this year for Prairie Winds Park.

In 2021, these fees are proposed to be added to for-profit festivals at Olympic Plaza, Prairie Winds Park, Prince’s Island Park, Pumphouse Park, Shaw Millenium Park and Stanley Park.

The city said the money collected would then be put into an existing reserve that will help repair or improve the parks.

Flatwater pools in Inglewood and the Beltline

The Inglewood Aquatic Centre. GOOGLE EARTH/MAPS

A decision on these pools was also kicked to this Calgary budget meeting, with a potential discussion on how the city might be able to keep them open by finding the cash necessary.

It would take $800,000 annually to keep the pools open. However, should they close them, it would cost the city $400,000 annually anyway to maintain and service the buildings.

There have also been discussions about other service models and private operation.

Low-income transit pass

Councillors will also be faced with the ongoing discussion of the city’s low-income transit pass and how to fund it long term, with or without the help of the province.

Should the city be forced to fund all or part of it, the proposed low-income passes could go from a 95 per cent discount to an 83 per cent discount.

Administration recommends continued advocacy with the province to ensure that funding remains available, limiting the need for it to be tax supported.

One of the scenarios for the low-income transit pass. SCREENSHOT

Public submissions will be heard on Nov. 25, with deliberations starting Nov. 26.