URGENT NOTICE OF MOTION Re: Capital Spending, Frontline Service Cuts & Ongoing Tax Crisis
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URGENT NOTICE OF MOTION
July 28, 2019
Re: UNPRECEDENTED CAPITAL SPENDING, FRONTLINE SERVICE CUTS AND GROWING TAX CRISIS
WHEREAS as aligned citizens, taxpayers and small business owners in Calgary, we formally request the attention of Mayor and Council to address urgent questions concerning all Calgarians;
AND WHEREAS significant cuts have been made to critical frontline services in Calgary including emergency response times, affordable housing, public transit, policing and beyond, with a stated assurance of more to come;
AND WHEREAS Calgary residential and commercial property taxes continue to see year over year increases, with recurring reference of additional increases needed in order to fix the 'broken system,' and finance 'citizen expectations' in the operating budget rather than or in addition to capital spending by City Hall;
AND WHEREAS citizens and homeowners have a severe lack of insight as to what their property tax increases will be in 2020 and beyond, in order to finance approved and proposed $1.5 billion of capital spending;
AND WHEREAS Calgary's small business community is facing a tax crisis for the fourth consecutive year, significantly shouldering the loss of $1 billion in downtown office tower tax revenues between 2015-2018, with continued downtown property devaluation anticipated;
AND WHEREAS the small business community urgently seeks to know Council's intentions to permanently mitigate the broken commercial property tax situation longterm, following a 10% cut to 2019 property tax bills, paid through City reserve funds and frontline service cuts, and tax increases as high as 350%;
BE IT RESOLVED that without clear answers to these fundamental economic questions, Calgarians cannot effectively operate viable households or businesses now and in future, nor support the immense capital spending at hand.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT COUNCIL:
- Immediately inform Calgarians as to how their current taxes and municipal services are projected to be impacted in 2020, given the stated lack of remaining reserve funds and the City's acknowledgement that, in addition to the $60 million in cuts to the operating budget passed by City Council on July 22, "further savings will be needed in 2020 and beyond."
- Share its plans for immediate property tax reform and the timeline for implementation. This includes amending the current residential to commercial property tax ratio of $1:$4.47, the highest of its kind in Canada, addressing commercial property assessment policy and transparency, and partnering with the province in revising the Municipal Government Act as needed.
- Promptly inform Calgarians of Council's plans to build and finance the Green Line LRT, including plans for mitigating further losses to downtown property tax revenues resulting from the multi-year construction of the downtown alignment and proposed 4km tunnel under the Bow River and Beltline district. Further, provide decisive information as to how downtown and Beltline businesses will be spared the same catastrophic effects as endured by 17th Avenue SW's underground utility upgrades and crippling year-over-year tax increases.
Background and Context:
- June 10, 2019 - Calgary's small business community rallied at City Hall, faced with what was dubbed by Council, media and citizens alike a 'tax crisis,' following year-over-year double and triple-digit tax increases to commercial properties outside the downtown core.
- July 4, 2019 - An 'urgent halting' of the Green Line LRT is called (Calgary's largest capital project in history at an estimated $4.6 billion cost) following concerns around the viability and as-yet unknown costs of the 20km line. Of particular concern is its proposed 4km underground tunnel under downtown, with an estimated 5-7 year construction timeframe.
- July 9, 2019 - The taxpayer-funded $100 million Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund announces $4 million in funding to Parkland Fuels, one of Canada's largest gas station and convenience store operators worth $3.8 billion (2018). OCIF's stated intention is to support Calgary's economic diversification and attract catalytic innovation to our city, while creating new jobs rather than pulling them from neighbouring Alberta cities.
- July 22, 2019 - City Council approves $60 million in cuts to its remaining 2019 operating budget, including emergency services, public transit, affordable housing, recreational facilities and beyond. City Manager Glenda Cole expresses her expectation that there are more to come.
- July 23, 2019 - The City of Calgary presents a proposal for a new Events Centre, requiring an estimated $290 million of public funds, with less than one week of public consultation prior to voting by City Council.
- January 2019 - City Council commits $412 million to an ambitious transformation of Arts Commons
- December 2018 - City Council approves the $500 million expansion of BMO Convention Centre
- November 2018 - The City of Calgary completes construction of the new $245 million Central Library
- July 2018 - City Council green lights construction of 14 new suburban communities, despite concerns around costs and resulting erosion of essential services across the city
- July 2019 - City of Calgary Chief Financial Officer Carla Male states her concerns to Council re. pursuing 4 major capital projects simultaneously, totalling $1.5 billion in approved and proposed funding
- July 2019 - Calgarians express significant concern regarding transparency, operations and overall trust in their elected municipal officials
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