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Calgary adds preliminary $171 million to 2024 budget list, calls for more fiscal help

There's also an additional $817 million in capital costs that go along with the operating budget requests.

Thirty potential additional investments will be considered during upcoming budget adjustments with the caveat the City will need funding support to make them happen, or the cost would fall to Calgary taxpayers.

During a strategic meeting of council Tuesday on both the municipal funding gap and upcoming service plans and budget adjustments in November, council heard about a roughly $311 million annual funding gap since 2007 due to the offloading of provincial responsibilities.

The timing of that report coincided with a list of 30 new budget items, in addition to plans already made for 2024 in last year’s four-year budget. That list includes roughly $102 million in base operating budget additions, plus $69 million in one-time operating budget additions. There are also $817 million in capital requirements the city outlined.

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said there are challenging decisions to make in the upcoming budget adjustments, particularly with the “restricted ability to raise funds.”

“It is a short wish list,” Penner said of the additions.

“I think we were actually quite restrained in some of the things that we put on there.”

The items on the list cover the gamut – transit, affordable housing, interchanges, administration upgrades, fire services, parks, and more. The City has posted information on its website and is now looking for feedback from citizens on what investments are important to them.

Additional City of Calgary … by Darren Krause

Additional City of Calgary … by Darren Krause

This all comes as Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek joined a chorus of Alberta municipal leaders calling for a boost to funding from the province. The Alberta Municipalities Convention in Edmonton this week will have a resolution calling for the province to up infrastructure cash to $1.7 billion given the constraints of population and inflation.

Doing things backward: Coun. Sonya Sharp

Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp commended administration for trying something new in the budget process. She felt as though they went about it the wrong way.

“We went shopping before we even looked at what’s in the bank account,” Sharp said.

“So, we’re going to have to figure out how we’re going to pay for all of this if we want to move forward with all those 30 items.”

Sharp said if there’s no help from the province or the feds in the near term on some of these added expenses, it will fall to the Calgary taxpayers.

“We can’t drain our reserves. That would just be completely irresponsible,” she said.

“If we looked at those 30 plus, or we’ll say 30 investments right there, that’s a huge increase to property taxes.”

Currently, property taxes are slated to increase by 3.4 per cent already in 2024. If fully approved, with no changes to the prior year’s budget, and no funding from the city’s reserves, it could represent an additional nearly 10 per cent increase for Calgary property owners.

Mayor Gondek said this is a preliminary list that’s been put together based on discussions over the past 10 months. Those conversations were the result of a notice of motion during last year’s four-year budget deliberations to have ongoing conversations on budget needs in Calgary, put forth by Coun. Jasmine Mian.

The mayor cautioned that there’s still more discussion to be had.

“There’s lots of room and lots of time to figure out what council wants to invest in, and no decision will be made until November,” she said.

She did underscore the fiscal gap that’s been created by underfunding and offloading of responsibilities by the province.

“There are hundreds of millions of dollars that we’ve had to take up in our budgets and we simply don’t have the capacity to do that,” Mayor Gondek said.

“So that municipal fiscal gap report is intended as a conversation starter with the two other orders of government so we can say this is a situation we collectively find ourselves in. We have a population to serve.”