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Calgary 2024 budget adjustment discussions are underway

It’s budget adjustment week at the City of Calgary, which means a week-long process to hammer out the 2024 financials.

On tap is a potential 7.8 per cent property tax increase for the typical single-family homeowner – or $16 per month for a property worth $610,000. There’s a 3.4 per cent tax increase already baked in from last year’s four-year budget, but a suite of $170 million for 28 projects, plus a potential tax shift, means that could more than double by the end of the week.

Also, a typical business valued at around $5 million could see a roughly 3.5 per cent non-residential property tax increase. That would mean an additional roughly $275 monthly, depending on how the final assessment roll comes out.

The early November budget reveal, recessed to the call of the chair, will be re-opened today.  

The public will then get to share their perspectives on the budget, which typically lasts a day or so. Right now, there are dozens of speakers slated to provide city budget commentary.

After public input, business units will answer specific questions from Calgary city councillors. This is where councillors drill down into the specifics of each unit’s budget. This can take a day, maybe even two before all questions are exhausted.

Then we’ll get into the sausage making, where councillors will hash out different motions to amend the budget before the final amended budget is passed.

Each budget day isn’t expected to go past 6 p.m. – except public submissions, which will go until 9:30 p.m. Monday. Budget talks could go the full five days of this week, however in years past, groundwork has been done to come up with a set of mostly agreed-upon amendments that could speed up the process.

Citizens can watch the budget deliberations live at this link.

Does budget split means compromise in the works?

After the budget was initially rolled out, Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp expressed concerns over the budget and wouldn’t support it as proposed. She said after last year’s approved budget, the city was already sitting at a 3.4 per cent property 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,” Sharp said.

Sharp said that she and a few others were working on a proposal to put forward this week. There’s no further word on how that took shape at this time.

As far as the tax shift, and worry over provincial intervention, Sharp said she wasn’t too concerned about it reaching the 5:1 threshold included in the Municipal Goverment Act. This current budget, without a tax shift, would keep the non-res to residential ratio at nearly 4.5 to 1. She wasn’t confident that city administration was actually worried about provincial intervention either.

“Another thing is we’re hearing that all of a sudden the province will say, ‘well, you have to go cut,'” Sharp said.

“I think the province will turn around and say you have to go back and reassess the values of your properties before they’re going to tell us that we have to cut. That’s not their game.

Still, Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said that given all the pressures – inflation, investments in housing, public safety and transit – he’s surprised that the tax increase wasn’t more.

“For me, it’s a degree of relief, given every single thing that we had to do to actually address all the issues that we’re seeing,” he said after the budget was initially delivered at the start of November.

He said the reality of the conversation is that when you’re dealing with housing issues, cost of living, transit safety and more, the bill for all that eventually comes due.

“Honestly, with the way that the crisis has spiraled, I think the fact is that we don’t have any time to delay any of this spending because it’s so significant to the impact that it will have for people in need of a good, safe, secure and attainable home right now,” Walcott said.

As far as the tax shift (which would be responsible for $4 per month for the typical Calgary SFH), Walcott said the best time to have done the shift was last year. City council, however, voted against shifting the tax responsibility to homeowners.

“I believe that the tax shift was the right decision last year and I still think it’s the right decision now,” he said.