$52M tax break creates flood mitigation funding dilemma

City council's decision to give Calgarians a $52-million tax break next year leaves a big question about how to fund upcoming flood mitigation projects.

Budget documents list $22M worth of flood resiliency projects

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke about council's next moves when it comes to finding funding for much-needed flood mitigation projects. (CBC)

City council's decision to give Calgarians a $52-million tax break in 2014 leaves another large initiative unfunded.

Administrators wanted to use that money for flood protection projects, such as building a $10-million berm at the zoo.

The city earmarked the $52 million in unused provincial education property tax towards flood-related projects in 2013, but it was a controversial debate that spanned many weeks.

Budget documents list $22 million worth of flood resiliency projects and there are tens of millions more needed to protect city assets from future flood damage.

Besides the zoo berm, the municipal building needs electrical upgrades and the emergency operations centre needs improvements.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says council decided to put off making a decision.

"Council chose to rebate that ... $52 million so certainly we're going to have to find that money, but I'm confident that our partners in the provincial and federal governments will come to the table on that," he said. 

Debate to come back before March

Calgary Zoo president Clement Lanthier says he is not worried.

"There's an existing berm around the island and it was high enough for 2005 flood," he said. 

"Now the challenge is to elevate that berm and reinforce that berm in certain area so I think we got to find a solution." 

Council wants a full list of projects before applying to the federal and provincial governments for some help. If costs can't be recovered through those applications, or through insurance recovery, then the city will decide whether it will use reserve funds or implement a special flood levy to pay for them.

The city has a $300-million fiscal stability reserve, which could be tapped for flood costs.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart also suggested a new levy be placed on property tax bills, money that would be earmarked for flood costs.

“I'm interested in a levy that's not just on the residential side but the non-residential side as well with business, and to me it really would need to be across the board,” she said on Monday.

The debate is expected to come back to council before March.

With files from CBC's Scott Dippel


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.