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The City's Financial Position

Municipal Financing

Municipal governments are facing continuing challenges in matching their revenue sources to their expenditures, particularly in developing greater sources of growth-related, long-term secure funding. As municipalities are expected to do more with their limited revenue sources, local governments are finding it critical that they achieve greater financial sustainability through such actions as:

  • Incorporating longer-term financial focus through multi-year business plans and budgets, and understanding long-term revenues and costs.
  • Obtaining sufficient predictable funding to deliver services that citizens rely on.
  • Building financial flexibility and resilience into financial outlooks and risk assessments to address emerging and unforeseen circumstances.
  • Strategically managing debt and reserves to support municipal growth and infrastructure requirements.
  • Diversifying funding sources for greater municipal control and flexibility to address growing needs.
  • Managing municipal services with more efficiency to get the most for every dollar.

The City's Long Range Financial Plan (LRFP) (LRFP), updated in 2011, identifies an operating gap of $150 million emerging by 2021 as a result of revenues growing at a slower pace than expenditures. This assumes that property tax increases match The City's inflation rate and reflects the structural difficulty between inflationary and growth impacts on revenues and expenditures. The LRFP identifies financial sustainability as the overarching goal, defined as meeting service level commitments within acceptable property tax increases. Five strategies are identified to support the goal: Flexibility, Efficiency, Sufficiency, Integration and Credibility. The LRFP is currently being updated and will be presented to Council in 2015.

Despite the longer term challenges identified in the LRFP, Calgary has led the nation through the economic recovery, which has led to three years of strong population growth. While rapid growth presents challenges along with opportunities, The City remains in a strong financial position with prudent fiscal practices and good liquidity in reserves.

Calgary has one of the lowest residential property taxes among 20 Canadian municipalities and is low to average in comparison when utilities are included. As well, a report prepared for the Real Property Association of Canada has shown that Calgary has the lowest non-residential property tax rate of the major Canadian municipalities. The City continues to achieve a high credit rating of AA+, which is among the best for Canadian municipalities.

In addition, The City's 2012-2014 business plan and budget were recognized for its thoroughness in the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada.

The City's Financial Position 
The City's Financial Position 

Although currently in a strong financial position, The City recognizes a number of emerging issues that must be considered in order to maintain its solid financial position over the 2015-2018 business planning and budget cycle and in the long term. Some of the key emerging issues affecting The City's budget include a growing demand for infrastructure investment, increasing cost of growth, and unreliable long-term capital funding sources. Furthermore, The City projects a growing operating shortfall while recognizing pressures to keep tax increases low.

The City's revenue structure remains a key issue for keeping up with the cost of servicing a growing city. The City's key sources of revenue and expenditures are shown on page XIV.

Property taxes comprise the largest single component of The City's total revenue sources for the operating budget. The other components consist of sources that are either fixed or frozen, or sources over which The City has little control. This means that when inflation hits City expenditures, the property tax component must absorb a greater share of the increases in order for total City revenues to increase at the same pace as expenditures.

The rate of municipal inflation is another key financial pressure on The City's budget. Unlike the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which considers household costs such as shelter, food and transportation, the Municipal Price Index takes into account The City's key expenditures - salary, wage and benefit costs, and costs of materials, supplies, fuel, contracts, and insurance. Negotiated settlements for several unions have resulted in wages rising above CPI. Southern Alberta's flood of 2013, which was the largest insured loss in Canadian history, has significantly impacted the insurance marketplace in Canada. As a result, property insurance premiums for The City have increased substantially. As well, utilities such as natural gas and electricity are expected to increase at a higher rate than household inflation.

The City's Financial Position 

Rapid growth, rising costs and limited funding sources have combined to push debt levels higher. The historic and projected debt levels for The City are shown in the table on the right. The green solid line represents The City's internal debt limit which is 80 per cent of The City's legislated maximum debt level. The debt limit is based on The City's revenue and, therefore, will rise as City revenues increase. The graph shows a growing level of debt related to The City's water and wastewater facilities, as represented by the bars labelled "Self-Supported". The bars labelled "MSI Debt" represent The City's bridge-financing and advancing capital expenditures against future funding through the Province of Alberta's Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI). This bridge financing should be repaid over this budget cycle unless the Province again extends the timeline for distributing the MSI grants.

This chart shows that within the 2015-2018 period, The City must be especially mindful of the growing level of debt, driven largely by self- supported debt affecting water and wastewater facilities and advanced capital expenditures.

The City of Calgary's historic and projected debt levels


The City's Financial Position 

In addition to the absolute level of debt, debt servicing (the annual principal and interest payments on debt) is a concern for The City. The City's calculated debt servicing costs, with the green line representing 80 per cent of The City's legislated debt service limit, is shown below. As this chart indicates, calculated debt servicing costs are the bigger concern relative to The City's debt limits over the 2015-2018 budget. The City must therefore carefully consider the impact that different debt structures have on the debt service calculation, in addition to the absolute amounts.

Debt Service Limit (Principal & Interest) 2012-2020 using budgeted debt issuances


The City's Financial Position 


Budget Overview - Total City

The business plans and budgets together provide an outlook on what services citizens can expect from The City during the next four years. The budgets constitute the financial plan to support the business plans, which in turn reflect Council’s Priorities for 2015-2018.

Maintaining services in response to strong population growth within the challenges of The City’s financial restrictions continues to be the immediate challenge for The City of Calgary. Over the longer term, responding to changing demographics and maintenance of The City’s aging infrastructure will continue to emerge as significant challenges. The Action Plan represents a public investment of $22 billion to provide infrastructure and daily services to Calgarians between 2015 and 2018.


The City presents capital plans for five-year time frames to ensure appropriate planning for required projects and related funding. The five year 2015-2019 Capital Plan includes the full budget of projects that are anticipated to continue or commence in the 2015-2019 period. The five-year plan shows the complete impact of multi-year projects, as well as the distribution of expenditures and how funds are spread over time. The City’s capital requirements are driven by many factors, such as rates of growth in the city, both population and area; the need to maintain and upgrade existing aging infrastructure, meet industry standards; enhance services and government legislation and regulations.

  • The proposed five-year capital plan for 2015-2019 is $7.6 billion (2012-2016 - $5.7 billion). This includes $5.3 billion for tax-supported operations and $2.3 billion for Utilities. Half of the tax-supported capital plan ($2.5 billion) is for transportation-related projects. The other major capital projects are for recreation/ culture, protective services and corporate infrastructure.
  • Funding of the capital plan is predominantly through government grants, new borrowings, and reserves.

The capital plan comprises projects that will address Council priorities. Examples of new capital requests include:

  • A prosperous city: $10.5 million for affordable housing, $12.5 million for library lifecycle, $51.6 million for the maintenance of recreation facilities and community associations, and $86.9 million for industrial land development projects, Forest Lawn Creek and Point Trotter.
  • A city of inspiring neighbourhoods: $23.7 million for new fire stations, $7.5 million for the upgrade of 9-1-1 technology to allow citizens to communicate with 9-1-1 using email, text, videos and pictures, $8 million for enhanced regional pathways, as well as $7.3 million for pathways lifecycle. In total, there is $2.1 billion for infrastructure in growth areas.
  • A city that moves: $238.4 million for transit projects, $239.7 million for Roads projects and $1.16 billion for other Transportation Infrastructure projects.
  • A healthy and green city: $23.3 million for the implementation of Green Cart, $4.4 million for environmental liabilities and remediation, $56.7 million for Parks and Natural Areas, $42.9 million for landfill remediation and infrastructure upgrades, $129.5 million for water treatment plants, and $65.9 million for Wastewater Treatment plants.
  • A well-run city: $13.7 million for asset and business management, $60.1 million for accommodation lifecycle operations, $19.4 million to improve engagement and communications, and $188.8 million for community drainage improvement projects.
  • The City of Calgary funds its capital programs through a combination of external and internal sources. External sources include federal and provincial programs and grants, local improvement levies, and debt, while internal sources include contributions from operations (Pay-As-You-Go) and specific reserves.
  • The 2015-2019 capital plan is $7.6 billion.
  • The government programs and grants of $1.9 billion primarily includes MSI ($662 million) and related bridge financing, Basic Municipal Transportation Grant (BMTG) ($692 million), Federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) ($316 million), the Green Transit Incentives Program (GreenTRIP) ($112 million) and other ($82 million). MSI monies are used to fund transportation, recreational, cultural and protective services projects, GreenTRIP monies to fund Transit projects, while the other monies are used primarily to fund transportation projects.
  • Debt of $2.4 billion is another main funding source for capital expenditures. Funding from debt is split among Utilities ($1.7 billion) and tax-supported / self-supported operations ($706 million).
  • The City has set up reserves to fund specific capital projects such as landfill, storm sewer upgrade, downtown improvements, legacy parks, and lifecycle maintenance and upgrades. Contributions from reserves and Pay-As-You-Go are $2.6 billion.
  • Contributions from the developers, Calgary Parking Authority and Acreage Assessments (included in Other Funding of $692 million) help fund transportation projects.

Funding the 2015-2019 Capital Plan 

The City is continually servicing land to maintain a healthy inventory to meet the needs of the growing population. Business units from across the corporation have aligned their budgets and capital plans to support growth that matches the prioritized list of new growth areas. This represents a far greater level of corporate alignment than occurred in previous budget cycles.

The 2015-2018 Capital Budget contains new requests for approximately $2.1 billion for investment in growth areas and is expected to result in the servicing of nearly 1,400 additional hectares of land, with the ability to house almost 100,000 people in the Developing Areas alone, not including the capacity in the Developed Areas. Investment in redevelopment and industrial areas has also been incorporated into the budget. Capital projects and operating impacts to service these areas are included in the 2015-2018 Capital and Operating Budgets.

A list of the projects supporting growth in the developing areas can be found in Figure 31 of the Supplemental Information document. The Supplemental Information also includes maps identifying each growth area corresponding to the Growth Area codes in each Business Unit’s Capital Budget Listing table and the location of capital projects. The City will continue to monitor growth and recommend adjustments to capital investment plans as required.

More information on growth is available in Figure 31 of the Supplemental Information.

The four-year operating budget represents the costs and funding required to provide for the ongoing operations of the City. The operating budget was based on considering a number of factors including an extensive citizen engagement process; statistics from the Conference Board of Canada and Statistics Canada; and a labour strategy approved by Council.

  • Gross expenditure (net of recoveries) is expected to exceed $4 billion by 2018, an increase of almost $890 million from 2014. Almost 70 per cent of this increase is in the tax-supported areas, with the balance of the increase in the Utilities. Approximately $50 million in efficiencies will be found over the four year period, the equivalent of an average 0.7 per cent annual tax increase over the cycle.
  • The number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions is expected to increase by 670 to about 15,700. The majority of this increase is focused in citizen facing business units such as Fire (165), Transit (194), Utilities (73) and Waste & Recycling (57), in general to provide services to the growing population, although over a quarter of the increase is requested to improve service levels.
  • Total inflation is expected to increase net expenditure (net of recoveries and department specific revenues) by $393 million by 2018. This is largely driven by increases in salary and wages, as well as rising utilities and higher insurance costs, the latter resulting largely from the 2013 flood.
  • Spending on the operating costs of new capital projects that will be complete in this budget cycle is expected to add another $105 million, $63 million of which is the result of capital projects that have been previously approved. About 70 per cent of the operating costs of new capital derive from growth or upgrade projects. The remaining costs are generated by new maintenance or service improvement capital projects.
  • Other service and budget increases are expected to add another $48 million as The City provides service, in areas such as Transit (i.e. an addition of 190 thousand hours), along with public safety areas such as Police, bylaw enforcement and transit safety, to the growing population while maintaining more roads and parks in newly developed areas.
  • Through growth and rate increases, non-tax revenue is expected to rise by over $370 million. This is driven in part annual increases in the water and wastewater rates, and in the stormwater drainage charges. Increases in the rates for these and other services are detailed in Figure 16 of the Supplemental Information document.
  • Growth in the property and business tax base is anticipated to add another $44 million per year in tax revenue. Council’s indicative property tax rate increase provides the remaining $290 million, taking into account the onetime $52 million rebate from 2014. The property tax increase will result in an increase to the average household of $27 per month by 2018. Utility and recycling rate increases will add another $48 per month.
  • Within this tax rate, The City will be challenged to maintain some service levels such as street sweeping and preventive outreach programs. As well, the addition in transit hours is less than half of the target outlined in RouteAhead.

For user fee and utility rate highlights, please see Figure 16 in the Supplemental Information.

  • The City of Calgary has a limited number of revenue sources with which to fund its operations. The single largest non-tax contributor to our revenues (about 32 per cent of the corporate total) is the sale of goods and services, of which approximately 59 per cent is from Utilities.
  • Other funding sources include franchise fees, investment income, contributions from operating reserves, licences, permits and fines.
  • The property and business tax revenues are the factors that produce a balanced budget; together they constitute 50 per cent of corporate revenue.
  • On this chart, the total operating funding numbers have been adjusted to remove double counting of franchise fees and dividends paid by Utilities to The City’s operating fund.
The City's Financial Position 

Estimated monthly impact of property tax and selected rate increases on a typical Calgary household

​2015 ​2016 ​2017 ​2018
​Property tax(based on 2014 Assessment of $430,000) ​$5.95 ​$6.60 ​$6.85 ​$7.20
​Utilities ​$8.70 ​$9.60 ​$10.60 ​$11.80
​Waste & Recycling ​$0.20 ​$0.20 ​$6.70 ​$0.20
Total ​$14.85 ​$16.40 ​$24.15 ​$19.20
 

How Property Tax Dollars Are Spent Every Month For A Typical Calgary Household (2018) Total: $160.90

The City's Financial Position 

  • (A) Infrastructure & Information Services, Office of Land Servicing & Housing, Customer Service & Communications, Animal & By-law Services, Public Safety Communication (911), City Auditor’s Office, Transportation Planning, Transportation Infrastructure, Water Resources/Water Services, Environment & Safety Management, Legislated Services including City Council
  • (B) City Clerk’s Office, City Manager’s Office, Chief Financial Officer’s Department, Law

For supplemental and background information on the 2015 – 2018 operating and capital budgets see Supplemental Information.