The City of Calgary has presented a new four-year budget that could cost homeowners hundreds of dollars more each year until 2018.
The budget — which still has to be approved by council — calls for a tax hike of 4.7 per cent in 2015, with similar increases in each of the following three years.
The average Calgary homeowner, based on the 2014 median residential assessment of $430,000, will see an increase of $75.60 on their property tax bill next year if the proposed city budget is passed as is.
But that doesn't include increases in water and sewer rates, monthly blue cart charges and recreation facility fees. Calgary residents also got a bit of a break in 2014 after the city decided to return the unused portion of the provincial education property tax.
So with the $100 credit given on the 2014 property taxes in mind, the average Calgary homeowner will be paying $278 more to city hall in 2015 when factoring in the property tax hike and increases in blue cart recycling fees, water meter, wastewater and drainage.
“Council understands that Calgarians demand these services, and they value these services, and we have to find a way to keep providing them," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
Here are a few highlights from the budget that will affect your daily life.
1) Cost increases
The cost of utilities in Calgary will continue to increase, including a big jump in wastewater costs.
“Our water rates have to actually match the cost of providing that service,” said Nenshi.
The following is a break down of the proposed costs included in the draft budget:
- Property taxes: $6.30 a month or $75.60 a year
- Blue cart recycling: $0.20 a month or $2.40 a year.
- Water meter: $0.64 a month or $7.58 a year.
- Wastewater: $5.98 a month or $71.76 a year.
- Drainage: $1.76 a month or $21.12 a year.
The city says utilities, such as natural gas and electricity, are also expected to increase at a higher rate than household inflation.
"The largest responses I've gotten are people who say: 'You know, an extra $100 to $120 a year for the services I get for the city? I can live with that,'" said Nenshi.
Transit costs will also increase over the next few years. The cost of transit ticket increases from $3 to $3.15 next year for adults.
|Type of fare||2014||2015||2016||2017||2018|
|Adult (15 to 64)||$3||$3.15||$3.25||$3.30||$3.35|
|Youth (6 to 14)||$2||$2.10||$2.25||$2.35||$2.40|
|Monthly pass (Adult)||$96||$99||$103||$105||$107|
|Monthly pass (Youth)||$60||$65||$70||$75||$80|
|Seniors annual pass||$95||$95||$115||$135||$155|
|Seniors low income pass||$15||$15||$25||$25||$30|
|Low income transit pass||$44||$47||$50||$52||$53.50|
2) More transit
The city budget plans for the opening of the first section of the Green Line, which will cost $52 million each year until 2018.
The budget allows for this bus-only transitway to run from downtown to McKenzie Towne, and also some bus-only lanes on Centre Street in the city's north.
"So commuters in southeast Calgary and north-central Calgary will see significant improvements to their lives," said Nenshi.
There will also be the introduction of four-car C-Train service starting in late 2015, which Nenshi says will help alleviate congestion — especially on the north-south line.
The city also plans to implement its electronic fare card system in 2015.
There are modest increases to Calgary Transit and Access Calgary hours in the draft budget, but the city has some concerns about funding in that regard.
"The increase in hours in transit that are in the budget right now takes us to only about 40 per cent of target under Route Ahead," said Nenshi, pointing to the city's 30-year transit plan.
The plan is to add 190,000 hours of new service from 2015 to 2018.
3) Roads, bridges, parks, rec centres and library
The budget plans include replacing two city bridges — the Inglewood bridge on Ninth Avenue by Fort Calgary and the bridge from Inglewood to the Calgary Zoo on 12th Street — which are nearing the end of their service life.
There are also several major road reconstructions and the construction of three interchanges planned in the next four years:
- Widening McKnight Boulevard from 12th Street to 19th Street N.E.
- Glenmore Trail and Ogden Road interchange
- Southwest and West ring road connections
- 194th Avenue crossing and CPR Grade Separation
- Macleod Trail and 162nd Avenue interchange
There will be upgrades to road and pedestrian access around Chinook Mall and the Motel Village area near McMahon Stadium as well.
Nenshi said he is excited to see the renewal of the Prairie Winds Park, but also the opening of the new Bowness Park.
"Which of course is something loved by many, many Calgarians," said Nenshi.
The Bowness Community Connection posted on Facebook that three-quarters of Bowness Park will be open to the public by next Monday.
"The east end remains under construction (and will be fenced off)," said the group in the statement. "But the entire west half of the park and the central area, including the deck overlooking the lagoon, the entrance road and parking lot, will be open for citizens use."
There are also new recreation centres planned or being built in Quarry Park, Great Plains, Seton and Rocky Ridge.
Funding for the new central library is also on the books over the next few years.
4) More compost, recycling and snow cleanup
The city plans to implement its residential Green Cart compost program starting in 2017.
"I have not yet figured out where I am going to put that third cart, but it will be great when it gets there," Nenshi joked.
There will also be multi-family recycling available to residents starting in February 2016, and the city plans to develop an industrial commercial and institutional waste diversion strategy.
The city says severe weather events in 2013 and 2014 have had significant impacts to operational budgets, but there are still plans to expand snow and ice control operations to include city-owned sidewalks, walkways and bikeways.
5) Public feedback wanted
Calgarians can have their say on the budget later this month when city council debates it.
Council deliberations on the budget begin on Nov. 24, so Calgarians have three weeks to weigh in on the proposed four-year budget.
There are several ways to participate:
- Comment online at calgary.ca/actionplan.
- Sign up to present to council in-person during the public hearings until Nov. 20.
- Submit written material or presentations for council’s consideration to the city clerk’s office by Nov 13.
- Comment cards and complete Action Plan documents are available at every Calgary Public Library branch from November 4-19.
- Check calgary.ca/actionplan or contact 311 for more information.
The city says the budget was developed over a year with help from six strategic planning sessions. A public feedback process started engaging Calgarians in January to see what they wanted to see and how much they were willing to pay.
“No other governments do this…. We have taken a very different approach,” said Nenshi.
He said 2,400 Calgarians have given feedback so far, and the city hopes to expand that.