BRACE FOR IMPACT
Homeowners, brace for impact.
This week, Calgary's City Council is debating a plan that would see your property taxes increase by a staggering $500 a year - possibly more.
That means a typical homeowner would end up paying more than $2,000 in added taxes over a four-year period, with the new median tax ending up at approximately $2,372.67 per year in property taxes.
To put that in context, since 2010 - when many members City Hall's Tax Hike Posse, and big-spender Mayor Nenshi himself, was first elected - property taxes will have increased by a whopping 110%.
Simply put, City Council is considering a crushing tax increase that will force many homeowners to sell their houses, unable to afford their punishing property tax bills.
This proposed punitive tax increase is City Hall's solution to the problem of lost tax revenue from Calgary's empty downtown office towers, hit hard by lower energy prices and increased provincial government business taxes.
In their minds, the only two possible solutions are to either hike taxes on businesses outside the downtown core, or hike taxes on homeowners.
Of course, we know that there is, in fact, a third option that the Tax Hike Posse down at City Hall should be considering - one that families consider every day when they're trying to make ends meet.
As we've argued before, our municipal government has become too big and too costly for Calgarians to afford. Salaries, wages, benefits, and pension costs have soared over the past decade, far exceeding what's provided in the private sector.
City employees enjoy premium benefits, platinum pensions, and near-absolute job security, as well as above average wages.
Calgarians have all tightened their belts while our city reels from the ongoing economic downturn. Many have accepted salary cuts and reductions in their hours, while others have been laid off by companies trying to stay afloat.
It's time that the City of Calgary takes steps to reduce the size of the city's payroll and implement across the board salary and benefit cuts.
City Council can't keep kicking this problem down the road by raising property taxes year after year after year.
They need to make tough decisions today to ensure our city's economic future.
Here are our recommendations:
1. A 10% reduction in the City of Calgary's workforce.
2. A 10% cut to employee salaries and wages.
3. Require City employees to pay a greater share of the cost for their benefits.
4. End supplementary pension plans for senior City staff.
5. Transition new City hires to either Defined Contribution Pensions Plan or RRSP contribution matching.
6. Eliminate perks like car allowances and expense accounts.
These are all policy changes that should be considered before the City Council even thinks about hiking homeowner taxes.
City government isn't supposed to be an employment scheme.
Its role is to deliver core services to citizens while being careful stewards of our tax dollars.
To her credit, Councillor Colley-Urquhart (Ward 13) has asked the Administration to provide financial information on a potential cut to city salaries and wages.
We appreciate her move to at least examine the possibility of reducing the wages of municipal employees.
In the meantime, we're warning homeowners to brace for impact.
Tax hikes are coming.