The City of Calgary's Financial Task Force
The City of Calgary's Financial Task Force
From 2015-2019 assessed values of non-residential properties in the downtown core fell and drove a shift in property tax responsibility to non-residential properties (outside of the downtown). After using short-term solutions Council directed City Administration to create a Task Force to provide a permanent resolution to the municipal tax share problem.
The Task Force met regularly from September 2019 to June 2020 and put forward 35 recommendations that were approved by Council in June 2020.
Task Force Recommendations Report
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 share 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.
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 subject matter experts in Administration.
Our 8 focus areas
The Financial Task Force grouped the 35 recommendations into 8 focus areas
Improving understanding of municipal finance circumstances
Focus #1 combines recommendations 13, 14 and 23:
- Investigate cost recovery with the province (#13)
- Ensure funding for new services (#14)
- Enhance ongoing communications (#23)
Responding to Calgary’s cyclical economy using existing tools
Focus #2 combines recommendations 1-3, 4, 21, 24, and 30:
- Use evidence for decisions (#1-3)
- Respond to Calgary's evolving economy (#4)
- Leverage untapped revenue potential (#21)
- Assess the cumulative impact of decisions (#24)
- Incorporate information from process changes into a review of user fee levies (#30)
Bringing property taxation into the twenty first century
Focus #3 combines recommendations 11, 12 and 19:
- Use the guiding principles (#11)
- Make subclass legislation usable (#12)
- Distribute tax responsibility appropriately (#19)
Improving tax efficiency for long-term fiscal sustainability
Focus #4 combines recommendations 10, 25-27, 34 and 35:
- Focus on long-term fiscal sustainability (#10)
- Motivate increase in TIPP uptake (#25)
- Maintain annual assessments to anticipate the evolving economy (#26)
- High-quality info for the tax rate decision (#27)
- Explore tax reform over one-time measures (#34)
- Investigate multi-year property assessment averages to reduce volatility (#35)
Preparing for changes that would occur as the economy evolves
Focus #5 combines recommendations 5-8, and 22:
- Manage the transition to the new economy (#5-8)
- Identify revenue from the new economy (#22)
Making Calgary more competitive, livable and attractive
Focus #6 combines recommendations 18, 20, 28, 31 and 32:
- Balance livability and tax competitiveness (#18)
- Choose tax stability over volatility (#20)
- Quantify the cost and value of services and distribution of benefits (#28)
- Affirm preference for tax stability over service stability and respond appropriately (#31)
- Adjust tax rates for relief when needed and stabilize rates with reserves (#32)
Supporting regional economic development
Focus #7 combines recommendations 15-17 and 29:
- Support regional economic development (#15-17)
- Quantify the cost and value of services and distribution of benefits: incorporate findings into decision-making process for cost sharing arrangements with regional partners (#29)
Working better with partners in achieving progress
Focus #8 combines recommendations 9 and 33:
- Advocate for timely legislative change (#9)
- Investigate the crisis level vacancy in the downtown office market and respond with actions (#33)
Council directed semi-annual reporting on the implementation of the Financial Task Force’s recommendations. Review the implementation updates below to see how we are working to strengthen The City’s financial system for the benefit of all Calgarians.
Administration has been reporting on 35 implementation deliverables. The Q2 2023 Final Update marks the end of the regular centralized semi-annual reporting on this program as 29 of the 35 deliverables have been completed and the remaining six deliverables have longer implementation timelines. Administration will continue to advance the remaining Financial Task Force recommendations through departmental operations and future scheduled reports.