In November’s newsletter, I introduced the City of Calgary’s biggest priority: responding to the needs of a growing population. The City Manager since advised City Council that rapid growth is not just a planning issue, it is a financial issue, and in order to protect the fiscal health of our City, we must change the current system.
It is projected that Calgary will grow by up to 40,000 people a year for the next four years. Each new Calgarian requires a $17,000 investment in utilities, roads, transit, and other infrastructure (at this growth rate, we will need to expand wastewater treatment plant capacity every six years). While we welcome new residents to help Calgary to grow, our ability to accommodate them is becoming increasingly strained under the existing model.
After advising Council on the financial magnitude of the growth challenges and the impacts on both our capital and operating budgets, our Chief Financial Officer provided potential solutions.
• The City requires changes to Provincial legislation in order to explore different revenue sources including developer-paid infrastructure. Necessary changes are included in our negotiations with the Province on the creation of a City Charter which are currently underway.
• While the strategic use of debt continues to be an option, I remain strongly opposed to increasing our debt limits as Calgary’s debt-per-capita ratio is the highest of all major cities in Canada. Incurring more debt for depreciating capital infrastructure simply offloads the burden to future generations.
• The City and the development industry (who acknowledge that change is needed) have agreed to work together on a new funding model in response to growth challenges. The objective is to ensure a sustainable funding agreement, with full cost recovery for The City and taxpayers, while allowing the development industry to remain profitable. A coordinated approach to planning and investment will allow The City to scale its efforts regardless of population growth.
As we work through the solutions, I will continue to provide updates on my website at druhfarrell.ca.
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.