The city posted a surprise $86 million surplus last year and now the debate begins about what to do with the one-time windfall. 

Roughly $32 million of the surplus — which came from things like not filling job vacancies, lower fuel costs and higher revenue from fines — has already been put into a budget savings account to help departments with unexpected challenges. 

The remaining $54 million is currently sitting in the fiscal stability fund, which totals $373.5 million including the temporary surplus injection.

Coun. Ward Sutherland wants to use the money to freeze taxes for the new two years.

"I'd like to see zero tax base for '17 and '18. I think mathematically it's possible," he said. 

At this time, the municipal portion of this year's property taxes is going up 3.5 per cent from last year, while the province will set the education tax portion in next month's budget.

Projects or taxes

Mayor Naheed Nenshi wants to use the money to help Calgarians struggling with the economic downturn, which could include capital projects. 

"Either spend it on stuff we need or look at a one-time way of returning it to the taxpayers," he said. 

"So, for example, our freeze on transit and rec fares and pet fees last year was a way of doing that without causing a permanent deficit or structural deficit in our tax rates."

A decision is expected in June, when council directs administration on adjustments to next year's budget.