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Ward 1 News: 4 Year Budget - Opening Statement

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RE: Councillor Sutherland's (Vice Chair of Priorities and Finance Committee) Opening Statement of Action Plan 2015-2018 at Council, November 24, 2014.

In the coming days, the members of the City of Calgary Council have an important task at hand.  The financial decisions for the next four budget years will impact many Calgarians, in multiple ways.

The budget consists of 22 billion dollars, 4.7 billion in capital budget, which stretches to 7.6 billion over five years.  There are forty-four action strategies and 109 service lines that deliver over 500 different services.  Council needs to consider the extraordinary population growth our City has experienced.  This growth has triggered many capital projects significantly earlier than previously projected. In the next four years, this growth will directly impact our capital and operating budgets. Furthermore, the Vertical Fiscal Imbalance all Calgarians have been subjected to directly effects all of The City's overall decisions, and the impact of property tax increases. 

I would like to revisit a few numbers, so that we can consider these in our overall thought process regarding the final outcome of the budgets.  In the current projected budget over the next four years, the combined increase including the property tax, utilities and waste and recycling amount to $901.00 per year, per household. (Based on an average value of 430,000).  This factually and financially is a 53.4% increase over the $1,687 average tax assessment in 2015.

It is important to stress again,  that Council’s decisions will impact many Calgarians in several different ways.  In the recent City of Calgary Satisfaction Survey, 60% were in favour of some type of increase.  However, this also indicates that 40% that do not think increases are favourable.  How many out of the 480,000 Calgarians will these type of tax and utilities increase negatively impact?  To what degree?  And will this drive some of the most financially vulnerable to the brink?

We have an obligation and responsibility to consider the impact on all the different social and economic groups within Calgary and to determine a fair balance that addresses the various needs.  Does this mean more subsidises, no tax increases, and substantially less services?  No, I do not think so. However, it may mean keeping the savings found to reduce the overall tax increases.

In the future, I would suggest a macro perspective to address the budget with a fairly firm outcome based number.  We are not operational experts and it is the management’s responsibility to find the efficiencies. The service base department would only make a presentation with the rationale of why management cannot not meet the objectives.

It would be warranted, that our provincial government fulfills their responsibility to the citizens of Calgary and properly and consistently transfers back appropriate funding to our city.  This needs immediate resolution as it directly impacts the higher tax increases our city faces.

My final comments are to the Administration, particularly, the present general managers.  I have had the opportunity to work in many large organizations over the years and I’m familiar with all the business buzz words and phrases. However, nothing replaces good solid leadership.  I want to listen and empower you to get the job done and to successfully lead Administration.  I know with good leadership comes accountability – period.

This budget plan is called an “Action Plan” because we need to move, we need the “right action” to deliver to our citizens. I am challenging you and your teams to take action, find efficiencies and savings, deliver a high level of service and at the end of each year and return some savings. I have confidence that you can and will deliver. I also encourage my colleagues to support this message and belief in the capabilities of our GMs and Administration.

This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.

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