Help coming for small business owners struggling with property tax bills, Nenshi says

Details are being sorted out for a fund that will help small business owners struggling with rising property tax bills, with more information expected Jan. 23.

About 1,000 businesses will face 30 per cent tax increase this year

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says a fund is coming to struggling small business owners facing a spike in their property taxes. (CBC)

Details are being sorted out for a fund that will help small business owners struggling with rising property tax bills, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Tuesday, with more information expected when the fund goes before council Jan. 23.

"We have to come up with a process where small businesses that are finding themselves in trouble can apply for this money, and that's what we're working on right now," Nenshi said.

Under the city's "revenue neutral" formula, many business owners outside downtown will face big hikes in their non-residential property tax bills this year, even as council voted to freeze property taxes for 2017. 

Speaking to the Calgary Eyeopener Tuesday, Nenshi said about 1,000 businesses in the city will see a large increase — more than 30 per cent — to their property tax bills, a spike Nenshi called "completely untenable."

Fund details to be announced soon

Many other small business owners will face "pretty moderate" increases, Nenshi said, while businesses in downtown will see a "massive reduction" in their taxes.

"So the question is how do we fix that?" Nenshi said. "The challenge is that we are very, very restricted under the Municipal Government Act in what we can do."

Council previously determined it would take $15 million to cap all small businesses at a five per cent increase, a sum that was earmarked last November

"We can't actually cap people at five per cent, but the amount is equivalent to being able to do that, so I think that people will see the benefit once we announce what this is going to look like in the next two weeks," Nenshi said.

In the meantime, he advises small business owners to check their tax assessments carefully.

"Number one is if you think your assessment is wrong, appeal your assessment. Number two is when we announce the plans for that fund, remember there's enough money in that fund to cap people about five per cent," he said. 

"It's really important to make sure you are eligible for that fund and you apply for it."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener and Scott Dippel