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Calgary residential property taxes could rise by nearly eight per cent

The current proposed property tax increase is 3.4 per cent, but could rise with additional spending and an approval of a 1 per cent tax shift to residential properties.

Calgary’s residential taxpayers could see as much as a 7.8 per cent increase to their property taxes in 2024, should city councillors approve a further tax shift and a slate of proposed additional spending.

The 2024 Service Plans and Budgets were delivered Tuesday to Calgary city council, and it shows a baseline 3.4 per cent property tax increase, based on the previously approved 2023-2026 budget. That would be roughly $7 per month on the typical single-family home valued at $610,000.

That’s based on an average assessment increase of 10 per cent. In Calgary’s revenue-neutral system, any home that increased by that much will pay the $7 per month increase. Any assessments that rose more than 10 per cent will be more than $7 and those that increased by less than 10 per cent will pay less than the $7 increase.

According to city admin’s overview of the budget adjustments, if all $171 million in additional budget recommendations, and a proposed one per cent tax shift ($22.7 million) to residential property owners are approved, Calgarians will see an overall property tax-only increase of 7.8 per cent, or $15.58 per month.  Non-residential property owners would see an increase of $277 per month on average (3.5 per cent), pending finalization of the city’s assessment roll.

There’s also a small increase to utilities, waste and recycling fees, and blended together it means a roughly five per cent increase to Calgarians.

The city is in year two of a four-year budget cycle.

"Now one year into the four-year cycle, council has an opportunity to make budget adjustments that reflect what we've all been hearing from Calgarians, and consider administration's recommendation is based on today's economic environment, balanced with the need to invest in our great city," said Calgary Chief Administrative Officer, David Duckworth.

"Calgarians have told us that investments are critically needed in key areas as identified in our fall survey of Calgarians namely, public safety, mental health, homelessness, and affordable housing. These factors are reflected in this year's proposed adjustments while ensuring every dollar spent creates the most value for our community and the people that live here."

Additional investments included, tax shift

In the City of Calgary’s fall citizen survey results, affordable housing and public safety topped the list of priorities for Calgarians for the first time since the survey was launched in 2008. Prior years had focused on infrastructure, roads and traffic.

Councillors have been working behind the scenes for the past 10 months on determining potential additional cash investments for this year’s budget, based on some of these priorities.

“We know we need to be smart with our money. We are thinking about not just today, but tomorrow as well. We are ensuring that each dollar spent creates the most value for our community and the people that live here,” said City of Calgary Chief Financial Officer, Carla Male.

“That’s why we have used every tool available to offset the recommended tax increase, looking at all revenue sources to ensure that we would only use an increase in tax revenue and user fees as a last resort.”

The City is also dealing with the prospect of provincial intervention if it's not able to keep the property tax ratio for non-residential properties below 5 to 1. With this current budget, without any changes, the tax ratio could reach 4.59 to 1 in 2024. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce has called for that number to be nearer to 2.8 to 1.

If the ratio is shifted, it would make Calgary residential property owners bear 53 per cent of the tax burden in Calgary, up from 52 per cent.

Mayor Gondek has said in the past that they don't want to lose Calgary's business advantage with a rate that's above that of other Canadian cities. The mayor also told media on Tuesday that when city council cut budgets a few years back, they didn't realize at the time what kinds of gaps they were creating in the future.

"What we didn't know was the impact of those cuts. What we didn't understand at that time was what it was going to cost us into the future," she said.

"When you have a roof caving in on a community center, when you have people who don't have sidewalks in their community, when you have folks with disabilities who simply cannot access transit, that is shameful."

These numbers are not yet final. There is a pause between now and when the budget comes back on November 20. Councillors have, in the past, worked behind the scenes to come forward with a revised set of recommendations. During the budget week, the public will have the opportunity to present. Councillors will also have a chance to ask questions of the different business units.

Councillors react to the administration numbers

Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp posted a video to X Tuesday morning, outlining her concerns about the budget documents that were presented. She said in that video that last year, during the four-year-budget conversation, Calgary city council voted to increase taxes for 2024 by 3.4 per cent. Sharp said the city has a responsibility to stick with what they projected for Calgarians, while finding targeted ways to help in areas of importance.

Outside council chambers Tuesday, Sharp said the city already has a surplus due to the Local Access Fees windfall, and a 3.4 per cent proposed tax increase.

"When we look at the surplus and all the reserves, we're doing something wrong if we can't hold the line at 3.4 per cent and still invest in our city," she said.

As far as the tax shift goes, Sharp said the one thing that people aren't talking about in that equation is that Calgary homeowners - potentially facing $16 per month increase - are the ones that would be supporting many Calgary businesses.

"When we talk about an increase of $16 a month, that's a lunch or coffee or food for your kids," she said.

"So, there are going to be some difficult conversations to have in the next two weeks."

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said seeing this budget number was a degree of relief.

"If I'm being absolutely honest, given the inflationary pressures and everything that we've seen in the world, I was expecting it to be worse," he said on Tuesday.

Walcott said that it's the responsibility of councillors to remind citizens that the dollars that are spent by the city, are spent for them. They hear requests all the time for different services, more affordable housing, food security, transportation, climate change and more.

"At some point, we do have to invest. The reality is that we share that burden together. That is the benefit of taxes, as a collective for 1.3 million people in this city shares that burden of providing good services and providing a runway to the future together," he said.

"Everyone is always shocked when we have to pay taxes but at the same time, they're demanding of us in services. We have to tell that story way better than we are right now."

Public submissions for this year's budget adjustments can be submitted online to the City of Calgary.