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Financial task force

The City of Calgary’s Financial Task Force

In November 2018, City Council identified the need for a Financial Task Force after changes in the economy, from 2015, resulted in a prolonged decline in demand for downtown office space and a growing supply of inventory that negatively impacted property valuations. This caused a significant redistribution of the tax base that these properties previously carried over to other properties.

Property taxes are the municipal finance backbone and play a vital role in funding the services citizens and businesses receive from The City. To respond to the challenge and support Calgary’s economic recovery and financial resiliency, the Financial Task Force was to identify and assess innovative solutions for short term mitigation, long term recovery solutions, and revenue options to improve financial resiliency for The City.

In addition to assessing the specifics related to the tax shift issue, the Task Force’s mandate included examining potential alternative revenue sources that can improve Calgary’s financial resiliency in the long run. While the Financial Task Force’s scope is broad, specific items were out of the Task Forces’ scope, including:

  • Recommendations targeted at cost control – to avoid duplication with the other initiatives underway, such as the Solutions for Achieving Value and Excellence (SAVE) Program.
  • Recommendations aimed at reforming assessment processes and procedures, which were already underway following Council directed work by Heuristics Consulting.

The Task Force was led by The City’s Chief Financial Officer, Carla Male, CPA-CA as Chair and a consisted of a panel of twelve external members with expertise in policy formulation, business strategy, property valuations and finance.  

Who we are

Selected external members of The City’s Financial Task Force include:

  • Heidi Conrad, CPA-CA
  • JT Dhoot, AACI, CBV
  • Dave Dunlop, CPA-CA, MBA, CFA
  • Brian Hahn, BSME
  • Sarah Lerner, CFA, MBA
  • Annie MacInnis, MSc (Economics)
  • Dave Mewha
  • Lindsay Tedds, Ph.D. (Economics)
  • Alan Tennant, EMBA, FRI, CAE
  • Rene Wells, Ph.D., (Finance)
  • Nizar Walji, CFA
  • Mike Yuzwa, CPA-CA, CBV

Citizens with substantial experience in policy formulation, business strategy, property valuations and finance submitted an expression of interest in Q3 2019. The individuals listed above were selected based on an application process following a skills matrix that was part of the Terms of Reference (included in Attachment 1).

External members of the Financial Task Force received support from internal experts from the following departments and business units:

  • Chief Financial Officers Department
  • Finance
  • Tax
  • Corporate Budget Office (including Corporate Economics)
  • Assessment
  • Intergovernmental and Corporate Strategy
  • Law

Financial Task Force Recommendations

The members of the Financial Task Force met regularly from 2019 September to 2020 June through a total of seventeen full-day or half-day discussions, in person and, later, through a virtual forum.

The recommendations emerged from a collaborative process through which Task Force members embraced the opportunity to understand, challenge, interpret and augment information previously considered. The thirty-five recommendations of the Financial Task Force are organized under four broad categories:

  • Decision-making priorities for municipal finances
  • Practices that align with economic drivers of change
  • Processes that respond to stakeholder expectations
  • Policies to support achieving fiscal sustainability

At the highest level, the Financial Task Force’s key findings focused on addressing and solving the following problems:

  • Improving the understanding of municipal finance circumstances
  • Responding to Calgary’s cyclical economy using existing tools
  • Bringing property taxation into the twenty-first century
  • Improving tax efficiency for long-term fiscal sustainability
  • Preparing for changes that would occur as the economy evolves
  • Making Calgary more competitive, livable and attractive
  • Supporting regional economic development
  • Working better with partners to achieve progress

The complete recommendations of the Financial Task Force are available below:

Next steps

Many of the recommendations identified fall within two categories:

  • Near-term items that are possible within current legislated authorities; and
  • Longer-term solutions that will require cooperation and collaboration with other orders of government, other municipalities and adjacent counties.

Any decisions related to the sharing of tax responsibility or additional revenue opportunities associated with the Financial Task Force recommendations would impact the operating budget and how property tax bylaws are prepared and finalized in the future. Administration will scope the costs of implementation and report to Council with a request for appropriate resources.

Recent events related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated impacts on the global economy and commodity prices will further impact The City and the local economy in ways that are not yet fully understood. The Financial Task Force’s recommendations will potentially contribute to mitigating the impacts of the current situation, but this was not the original focus of the Financial Task Force.

The City has established an Economic Resilience Task Force to support priorities associated with the COVID-19 response. This stream of work is ongoing, and several of the longer-term Financial Task Force recommendations identify a continuity through to the Economic Resilience Task Force for implementation.