The city has launched a program aimed at getting Calgarians involved in how city tax dollars are spent. 

The public consultation will involve at least 20 public engagement events this month, as well as a website where Calgarians are invited to build their own version of the city's upcoming four-year budget.

The events will take place across the city at malls, dog parks, and LRT stations, as well as a special transit bus. 

The last budget consultation three years ago, criticized by some council members, was done by outside consultants and cost $900,000.

'What do you want your city to do more of?  What do you want your city to do less of? How should we pay for it?' - Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi

This year the consultation will be done by city officials and will cost $550,000, says the city's Sarah Woodgate. 

"The Take Action bus will be going to communities to meet with citizens, rather than traditional open houses. We anticipate that this is a better approach. As well as the multifaceted online tools," said Woodgate.

Citizens as experts 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says five per cent annual property tax hikes are not sustainable, so he wants to hear from the people he calls experts — Calgarians.

"What do you want your city to do more of?  What do you want your city to do less of? How should we pay for it? And that's really what we're talking about when we're talking about this kind of engagement," said Nenshi. 

Nenshi added that the city is not allowed to run a deficit, so city budget-makers are forced to figure out how to balance the books. 

"Now the data show us, when we look at the citizen satisfaction survey, the data very clearly show that people think they're getting good value for their tax dollar. Much better than they were three years ago."

A projection for future property tax rates will go to city council in May.

Council will finalize the four-year budget in November.