Today City Council announced a new public engagement asking Calgarians how The City should use the $52 million of provincial tax room.
“This is a significant amount of unbudgeted money,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “We've debated five options in Council—all of which reflect the priorities of Calgarians—and this is our opportunity to do engage with citizens to hear what they think before Council makes a decision in July.”
City Council wants all citizens to give input on all or any of the five options. There are three ways citizens can get their input to City Council:
- Online at calgary.ca/52million
- Attending face to face opportunities at five different locations in Calgary over the next two weeks (schedule below)
- Calling 3-1-1
Currently, about 60 per cent of the property taxes citizen's pay goes to The City for operations including the police, fire, 911, road maintenance, parks and recreation facilities. The other 40 per cent goes directly to The Province.
City Council approved the 2013 budget in November 2012. The Province, after its budget in March 2013, actually requested less of their estimated portion of 40 per cent than had been anticipated.
That means that, with the same budget approved last November, The City now has $52 million more than expected. Council policy states that this money cannot be used for day-to-day operational expenses, but may be used for capital projects, which The City often asks the province to help fund, or debt reduction.
City Council came up with five options for using this tax room that will provide value for Calgarians. They are:
This month, I wrote a special column in the Calgary Herald just about the public conversation we need to have about how to use the $52 million tax room. Here is the full text of that story: I need your help.
Your city council has just launched a public conversation on what to do with the $52 million that you've heard about.
First, let me explain where the $52 million - what is referred to as provincial "tax room" or a "tax surplus" - came from. Currently, about 60 per cent of the property taxes you pay go to the city for operations (everything from the police department, fire and 911, to road maintenance and parks and recreation facilities). The other 40 per cent goes to the province, and they annually send us a bill for their amount.
The city passed its 2013 budget in November 2012. The province, after its own budget in March, actually asked for less money than we expected.
This means that, within the budget passed last November (and with tax bills being printed and set to go out), we have $52 million annually more than we expected. While it's not a huge portion of our $3-billion budget, it is a lot of money.
So now we're asking you what you think we should do with it.
Under council policy, this money cannot be used for day-to-day (or operating) expenses, which we must fund through property taxes and user fees. However, we can use the $52 million for the kinds of things we often ask the province to help pay for: one-time (or capital) expenses to build things or for reducing our debt. We could also reduce taxes.
This is a remarkable opportunity for Calgarians. We have five great opti