Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi wants to reduce the proposed property tax increase by freezing some city hall salaries.

City council began debating next year's budget on Monday, which at this point includes a 6.1 per cent property tax increase.

To bring that number down to 4.9 per cent, Nenshi wants to freeze the salaries of councillors and some senior staff as well as finding $17 million in savings.

"It's a $3-billion budget so if we can't find $17 million in efficiencies then that's a problem. And as you know, every year I try to call at the end of the budget for a little across-the-board reduction and I usually lose, but I think that those are good to actually push efficiency."

Most councillors seem to be leaning towards giving Calgarians a tax freeze — or even a small tax cut — by returning $52 million in tax surplus. It came available after the city absorbed the unused portion of the provincial education property tax.

But Nenshi wants to keep that money to use for flood-related expenses.

Calgarians have their say

A handful of people showed up at City Hall and were allowed five minutes to tell council what they think about the budget. 

According to Coun. Druh Farrell, Calgarians expect certain levels of city services but that doesn’t mean cost savings can’t be found.

“We're always open to looking at creative ways to do that. The goal for me is how do we do that without cutting ... front-line services,” she said.

“And that's always a challenge and there may be some creative ideas we haven't explored yet and that's always the opportunity with our budget process.”