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Ward 3 News: Council approves 2018 budget adjustments

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Ward 3 official website With budget deliberations completed here is an overview of the decisions and how they affect Calgarians.

The news has reported that there is a property tax increase of 3.8% for 2018. This addresses the fact that Council provided a one-time rebate to taxes for 2017 that was not rebated again this year, as well as the planned increase for 2018 (both of which are lower than originally planned in 2014 when the 4-year budget was created). These two increases amount to 2.9%. Another 0.9% comes from an increase to the police budget, restoration of funding for transit service and restoration of funding for civic partners. Council further allocated one-time amounts of $3 million for preventative services for at-risk populations, and $4 million for low income transit passes, through reserve funds.

A word about the reserve fund, called the Fiscal Stability Reserve (FSR). This fund is supported in large part through the budgeted money that is NOT spent by Administration in a given year. So, because expenditure was less than anticipated year over year, the variance can be applied to important services as needed. Council felt low income transit passes and preventative services deserved this funding.

$45 million in reserve funding was also dedicated to offset increases to non-residential property taxes, which will hit building owners and tenants in places like Ward 3 particularly hard as outlying areas try to cover the severely reduced tax revenue formerly generated by downtown properties.

Council was also able to commit $23.7 million from the 2017 tax room to financing costs for the Green Line, meaning that this important transit project will move forward and Councillor Gondek can continue to advocate for a northbound stage 2. There is also a capital commitment of $1.7 billion to ensure the City carries forward with planned infrastructure improvements that will drive economic growth and quality of life.

For those who are wondering if administrative cuts were made, there were detailed proposals put forward from every department. In the end, Council chose a scenario that sees the elimination of about 155 positions, as well as program/service cuts that maximize efficiencies without sacrificing level of service to Calgarians. This is on top of the millions of dollars that have been saved in the past few years by non-union employees having wages frozen, including the senior leadership team. You're also probably aware that Council took wage cuts this year.

You may have also read that some members of Council were seeking deeper cuts, which some folks deem to be fiscally responsible. The fact is that a proposal to cut $5 million randomly throughout the organization was put forward AFTER Council went through a careful process of reviewing all departments and determining where Calgarians could not be exposed to service cuts. This proposal would have jeopardized service delivery on items Council had just approved, like transit and police service. It simply did not make sense.

It’s never easy or popular to deliver the message that taxes have gone up (roughly $6 a month for the average homeowner). But this was the appropriate decision to maintain service levels while acknowledging that the City is in tough economic times. Also, not raising taxes in small increments over time has led to the current state. When the City bragged about having the lowest property tax rate in Canada (and are still on the very low end), a situation was created where our city had to play catch up all at once.

As the City prepares for the next 4-year budget for 2019-2022, it will be the work of this Council and Administration to figure out a better way of generating revenue for service delivery that is less reliant on a lopsided, assessment-based tax system.

Councillor Gondek is committed to serving the needs of Ward 3 residents and bringing investment back to the communities while respecting the financial strain we are all under in our households.


This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward 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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