Calgary homeowners won’t see a break on their property taxes this year, despite the province taking a smaller portion of revenue this year for schools.
City council voted Monday to move in on the tax space freed up when the provincial government decided to raise the education portion of the property taxes by less than expected.
Tighter ethic rules
City council has also tightened its ethics policies.
Council members approved new rules Monday afternoon about reporting office expenses and meetings for the mayor and aldermen. It's also mandatory to report any gifts worth more than $150.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the rules will improve transparency at city hall.
The new rules take effect on July 1.
As a result, 2013 property taxes are still going up by 5.5 per cent – the rate set in November – allowing city council to collect an additional $52 million in revenue that would have gone to the province to fund education.
A city policy allows council to assume any unused tax room if the province's rate is less than an increase in the city's portion.
Council must now decide how to spend that money and Mayor Naheed Nenshi is calling for a public consultation this spring on how to spend the cash.
He would like to see the money spent on transit projects, but other options include reducing the debt, creating a community revitalization fund or giving some of the money back to taxpayers by lowering the tax bill in 2014.
$135 jump for average homeowner
Ald. Andre Chabot says he hopes people who need that money back will be heard.
"It may seem like nothing for somebody who's well to do, or a has a good steady job and a good income, but for some people that are on a fixed income, $135 a year can mean the difference between having a transit pass or not," he said.
But Chabot said it might be tough for people who are scraping by to be heard.
"I can tell you a lot of people who are less affluent and struggling day-to-day, they're not going to have the time to go out and engage in this public consultation process to say 'I want it back' or 'I can't afford $100 a year,'" he said.
If the money had been given back this year, the tax increase would have been roughly 1.4 per cent — or an additional $37 for the average homeowner.
But the increase will remain at 5.5 per cent, which covers both the city and provincial education portions of the property tax bill. Nenshi said it amounts to an increase of about $135 for the typical homeowner.
Property taxes are due in June and council will decide what to do with the extra revenue in July.