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Nenshi to council on zero per cent tax increase: be honest

File photo. (Kaitlin Lee, 660 NEWS)

While some councillors have been pushing for a zero per cent tax increase for 2017 with a promise of no service cuts, Calgary’s mayor said he wants some more honesty about that idea.

“That’s not true, that can’t be true because that assumes that there’s a bunch of people sitting around not doing any work that we’re paying right now,” he said Tuesday.

On Monday, council will discuss different tax possibilities for next year, ranging from a zero per cent increase to one of $4 a month more per household and Nenshi hopes they will be able to set the tax rate by the end of the day.

Nenshi dismissed the idea that a zero per cent increase would have no effect on services, unlike others on council.

For example, Ward Sutherland said it could be done through efficiencies, union negotiations or taking money from the Green Line LRT project.

While Sutherland has said it could work not only for 2017, but 2018 as well, Nenshi said it’s not that simple.

“You have to be honest about it,” he said. “If you want to use one-time money, then you have to recognize that that one-time money means that you’re going to have a double increase in 2018, coincidentally the year after the election.

“What is not right is to pretend that we are putting in a tax freeze when we’re not and we’re just covering it up with one-time money, because the chickens will come home to roost.”

Nenshi said councillors certainly have the right for zero per cent, as well as using one-time money for a one-time rebate.

“That’s fine, but remember then you have to find money the following year,” he said, adding according to the best data, Calgarians aren’t interested in service cuts.

“When you realize that the maximum amount in the scenario is $4 dollars a month for the average house, the vast, vast majority of people go, ‘that’s a bargain’.”