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Calgary budget: Police ask for 7% increase; council begins week-long deliberations

The Calgary Police Commission released a preview of the Calgary police 2023-2026 budget, as they get set to present on day one of city council’s deliberations.

Calgary city council will begin the first day of what’s likely to be at least four days of overall budget discussion. It starts Monday with city business units and partners presenting their respective budgets.  That’s when the Calgary police will present and then answer council questions.

On Tuesday, the public will get their say during a public hearing.  Then, council begins hashing out different budget amendments to come up with a final document starting Wednesday.

City administration was given a funding envelope to work within for this upcoming four-year budget. Councillors asked that city administration come back with no more than an average 3.65 per cent annual increase in revenue required from property tax. Once the increase needed to cover new development and redevelopment (1.25 per cent), the increase levels around five per cent for a typical single-family detached home. They delivered a budget preview in early November.

Mayor Gondek said over the weekend that administration was supposed to come back with a budget that recognized Calgarians’ challenges.

“The budget that we have is one that’s respectful of inflation and population growth and it’s pretty bland for that reason,” she said.

“This is not a budget that has massive increases into any particular areas. It’s a budget that provides for the same level of servicing.”

The mayor said there were civic partners that were hoping to get more. There were also areas around mobility and housing that are under-funded, she said.

Calgary police budget up 7 per cent over four years

According to a document published Sunday, the Calgary Police Commission will present a budget that will see total expenditures jump from $546.5 million to $582.5 million by 2026. Once roughly $110 million in revenue is removed, it’s a city-funded budget of around $467.5 million by 2026. That’s up from $433.6 million in 2022.

The biggest proposed jump comes in 2023, as the Calgary police look to add 20 frontline patrol officers, 19 other officers and 35 civilian positions.

“Looking ahead, the Service anticipates needing a 5.1 per cent increase in full time employees over the next four years to provide the desired service levels, which is still below the anticipated population growth of 7.1 per cent.

2023 2026 Calgary Police Bu… by Darren Krause

The Calgary police budget was under the microscope for the better part of the prior four years. After Black Lives Matter in 2020 and the city’s move to be an anti-racist city, police funding was routinely examined during budget.

The Community Safety Investment Framework (CSIF) received $8 million diverted from the Calgary Police Service budget in 2021s. Anti-racism work, along with alternative call modeling were areas the money was to be invested.

Meanwhile, Calgary’s Fire department may be looking for more cash. The budget has them earmarked for roughly $34 million in additional budget over the next four years.

In June, city councillors heard the Calgary Fire Department would need to double their budget in the next 20 years to reach industry standards in fire response.

Other council priorities

Mayor Gondek said it remains to be seen what budget amendments councillors will bring forward.

“We’ll see what we’re able to do. Again, there’s many things that happen on the floor during deliberations, so we shall see,” she said.

In passing last Tuesday, Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp mentioned she was already eyeing up three potential amendments. When the budget was first delivered in early November, Sharp said that they may need to look at pausing some projects.

She’s not sure how Calgarians will take a five-plus per cent increase. Sharp encouraged Calgarians to voice their concern during Tuesday’s public hearing.

“(The projected tax increase) is high. A lot higher than I think Calgarians want to see, a lot higher than Calgarians are expecting,” Sharp said.

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner posted to Twitter that she’s looking at ways to improve affordability on Calgary Transit. Transit fares are set to jump to $4 for adult single ride tickets by 2026.

Penner said previously, all of this may involve tradeoffs of sorts.

“If we want to make significant investments in one or two areas, or two or three areas, that means that we’re not going to be able to increase the investment in other areas,” she said.

Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong said it’s a difficult budget to work with for a couple of reasons. First, this is a four-year budget and they’ve also had to incorporate the city’s administrative transformation. Comparing the last budget to this one is a bit of a chore, he said.

“I think the other thing is taking a look at how do we manage the growth of the city while at the same time making it affordable,” he said.

Wong said there would undoubtedly be so-called add packs. That’s where councillors attempt to tack on spending in certain areas. These aren’t always funded with property tax revenue (reserves, reducing funding elsewhere), but it could have an impact.

This is where creativity comes in, Wong said.

“The key is, how do we incorporate the innovative new things but at same time find the offsetting savings, and then keeping it within that envelope that we set out,” he said.

Other groups weigh in

The civic advocacy group Project Calgary posted to their site a plan that would see Calgary Transit service boosted to pre-pandemic levels, and more than 100 kilometres of cycle track built. They’d also like to see more done on Calgary’s 11 Main Streets and for affordable housing in the city.

Here’s more on their plan.

The Calgary Climate Hub also posted their thoughts on what should happen with the city budget. They’d like to see more climate funding for advocacy to other orders of government. They, too, would like to see 100 kilometres of added pathway, plus the electrification of the city’s bus fleet. (The city has applied for a $168 million loan to qualify for federal funding to gets electric buses.)

Here’s more on what the Calgary Climate Hub wants.