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Transit, waste and recycling among proposed Calgary user fee hikes

While many Calgarians are looking at property tax bump over the next four years, user fees in key areas are also on the rise.

City of Calgary administration delivered the proposed 2023-2026 budget on Tuesday, and with it a 5.2 per cent property tax increase for a typical ($555,000) single-family detached homeowner.

Along with that, users will see gradual fee increases in a handful of areas, including transit, recreation, and waste and recycling fees.

In the documents presented Tuesday, city admin said most user fees will see a zero-to-four per cent annual increase.

“This range of increase is to keep pace with inflationary pressures and comparable municipal fee and market rates,” the documents read.

The document also said that user fees offset the cost of delivering a service that would otherwise be funded through general taxation.  The city does set fees in accordance with a city policy that takes into account the cost of providing the service, market demand and the extent of public versus individual benefit.

City administration was asked to come back with an overall budget increase that matched population and inflation growth. That number was pegged at 3.65 per cent.

City Chief Financial Officer Carla Male said user fees increased based on their guidelines and didn’t relate to city property tax parameters.

“We do not use user fees as a way to supplement property tax income if we find that we need more,” she said.

“We are not, in effect, using them for things we shouldn’t.”

Transit fare increase

One of the front-facing areas where user fees will jump is on Calgary Transit. The budget proposes a $.10 rise each year until 2026, at which time single ride ticket will cost $4.

Other passes will rise roughly 10 per cent over the course of four years.

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said that the city must examine its long-term transit strategy.  Plus, they’re still trying to recover from Covid-19 when ridership bottomed out at 16 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.  It’s now popped back up near the 70 per cent mark.

There’s a bit of a misalignment in priorities, Walcott said. The example he used was that a residential parking pass in some parts of Calgary costs $15 annually. In contrast, a monthly transit pass is $112.

“I think these are the conversations where we have to really discuss how we're connecting the services we're providing to the value,” he said.

Rob Tremblay with Calgary Climate Hub said they aren’t thrilled with increases to ride transit. With that said, their focus has been on pushing for a more climate-friendly fleet of buses and to improve the frequency of service around the city.

“We need to increase the desirability of transit and lower fares are part of that, but so is reliability and investment quality infrastructure,” Tremblay said.

One area they want to see stay intact is the low-income transit pass.

Rec fees, waste and recycling

Along with the bump on transit, Calgarians could pay more for waste and recycling services.

In the proposed budget, black cart monthly fees go from $6.99 in 2023 to $7.41 by 2026. Blue cart fees are set at $8.98 for 2023 and rise to $9.52 by 2026. Green cart fees come in at $9.03 for 2023 and will rise to $10.17 by 2026.

Also set to jump are recreation fees – everything from shinny hockey to pool and fitness and field rentals… and golf green fees.

Most of these areas see an approximate rise of 10 per cent over the course of the proposed budget.

One area where Calgarians will see some relief over the next four years is on wastewater rates. The monthly service charge will drop by nearly 20 per cent in that time. However, metered usage rates over that time rises by roughly $.07 per per cubic metre annually.

The budget is not final at this time. Councillors will be presented greater detail by each business unit come Nov. 21. After the end of that week of deliberations, council will approve a budget plan for the four years.