Budget debate begins as Calgarians face 4 years of tax hikes

City council begins debating a four-year budget plan on Monday that has Calgarians facing annual property tax hikes of 4.7 per cent as well as several utility rate hikes.

Largely hold-the-line spending plan does include some service improvements, Mayor Naheed Nenshi says

Calgary city council began debating the budget for the next four years on Monday. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Council started to debate the city's four-year budget plan on Monday that has Calgarians facing annual property tax hikes of 4.7 per cent, as well as several utility rate hikes.

By the end of the four-year cycle, the owner of an average-priced Calgary house would be sending an additional $920 per year to city hall.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says Calgarians will get more for their tax dollars including three new interchanges, several bus rapid transit routes, new LRT cars and better snow clearing.

“It’s not quite fair to characterize it as a hold-the-line because there are service improvements here and there throughout it,” he said.

“But the majority of what's in there is really about holding the line and so council members will have to think about — is this really what we want to do?”

Several council members have already signalled they want to boost transit service hours.

Others, including Coun. Ward Sutherland, say the rate hikes need to be reconsidered.

“They've all said that it's way too high, considering the utilities going up. They've said the combination too is going to be deadly for them. So I'm very conscious of that. So I'm going to be looking for more efficiencies, more cuts.”

Calgarians wishing to speak directly to city council were allotted five minutes each on Monday. About a dozen presenters signed up for the chance.

Representatives of a local softball association were among the first to speak, telling council they are opposed to the city raising the cost of sports field rentals at rates two to three times greater than inflation.

Kyle Jones with Softball Calgary said if council is wondering why sports fields are empty, it's because more and more teams just can't afford to use them.

Council has set aside two weeks to debate the budget. 

CBC city hall reporter Scott Dippel was in council chambers tweeting the budget developments. Follow along in the box below: