Calgary might have to say goodbye to the lowest rates of property taxation in the country.
With more than a quarter-million newcomers over the past decade and about 100,000 more expected to flood into the city in the next four years, Mayor Dave Bronconnier said the city is entering what may be the most difficult budgetary process in “living memory.”
“We’re dealing with a decade of record growth,” Bronconnier said. “We’re trying to invest and re-invest in the growth of the community. We’re trying to top up and shore up where we’ve been falling down and the reality of the situation is that Calgary has the lowest property tax rate in the country.”
City hall has already committed to raising property taxes by 4.5 per cent this year and budgetary planning for the 2009-11 period is well underway, but Bronconnier refused to speculate on just how high property taxes will go, but hinting the relatively low tax rates will be a thing of the past.
“It takes dollars and cents to build a city,” he said.
While Ward 1 Ald. Dale Hodges thinks the cat is out of the bag way too early to start pondering just how high taxes might creep, Ward 5 Ald. Ray Jones said he wouldn’t be surprised to see an 8 per cent jump in the future and thinks council will have to sharpen its axe in order to keep the hikes to a minimum.
And he knows just the place to start. “One of the places I’d go, I always try, is IT (information technology),” he said. “I think it’s a bottomless pit and the prices we’re paying for computers and printers and such is absolutely ridiculous.”
While Bronconnier is adamant a tax increase is required for increased emergency services, such as police, fire and EMS, as well as transit, potential increase for taxpayers isn’t sitting well with Graham Furber, who said he knows plenty of people in their late 20s who can’t afford to live on their own.
“It already costs enough to live here as it is,” he said. “Just make it more expensive for everyone to live here. That makes sense, I guess. Not really.”