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Calgary city council approves four-year budget; 3.45% property tax increase

Last Updated Nov 30, 2018 at 8:17 pm MDT

(PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

The property tax increase for 2019 is 3.45%, which works out to about $5.40 per month per household.

$1.7 million went back into the Fire and Emergency Response service budget.

Hundreds of written submissions from the public and 73 presentations form the public were taken into consideration.

Calgary taxpayers will face an estimated increase of just over $5 per month to property taxes in 2019.

In a 9-5 vote, city council approved the $4-billion budget late Friday afternoon.

Councillors spent about eight hours debating the financial blueprint before giving final approval.

Council also made a move to reduce the tax load on small businesses. It cuts the non-residential increase from a projected 25 per cent to about 10 per cent.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says that is still not enough of a decrease, and discussions will continue in 2019. The tax rates will also be affected by the next provincial budget.

Nenshi presented a motion to lower that increase, by shifting some money from the city employee wage and salary account and putting $8-million into non-residential taxes.

For property owners, the residential tax increase has been set at 3.45% for 2019, which works out to an increase of about $5.40 per household per month.

The budget included transferring $43-million in leftover capital funding to go towards parks, pathways, urban forests and three new light rail train cars. Only three cars are being bought because an order for 12 has already been made, and Mayor Nenshi says they get a price break when buying 15.

A portion of the debate was focused on the library budget, which came with a requested increase of $3-million. In the end, councillors approved about half of the amount, just to cover inflation.

READ MORE: Operations would suffer if Calgary Public Library budget is cut

In a news release, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said councillors are happy with the result.

“I’m really pleased with where Council has landed,” says Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “We’ve invested very strategically in key areas such as transit, parks, pathways, and critical maintenance of our facilities, while keeping our residential property taxes amongst the lowest of any major Canadian city. This budget achieved more than $100 million in efficiency savings, and Council was able to pass on that savings to the non-residential property owners who need it most.”

Some funding has also been approved for existing communities, which was an idea proposed by Main Streets advocates and backed by Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra. This helps balance the fact that property tax increases are partly going towards paying for planned neighbourhoods around the city.

READ MORE: Arts community gets a boost in the Calgary budget

There were motions from other councillors to find more cuts, especially from George Chahal and Jeromy Farkas, but at the end of the day, about $6-million more was added to the budget by the end of the day.

Nenshi continues to say Calgary property taxes remain among the lowest among major cities in Canada, and this budget also includes hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.