Why Do We Need To Pay Property Taxes?
The City of Calgary has hiked our garbage collection fees. Again.
The "Waste management fee" of $4.90 per month has been removed and replaced by a new "Black cart fee" costing $6.85 per month.
Overall, garbage collection fees have increased $4.40 per month in 2019 - that's up 22% compared to 2018.
Your annual garbage collection bill is now nearly $300 per year.
And this raises the question - what exactly do we pay property taxes for?
In the past, we paid property taxes to fund core services like snow removal, garbage collection, and road repairs.
Increasingly, the City is introducing more fees and surcharges to pay for these core services, on top of the property taxes homeowners are already paying.
So what are our property taxes going to fund if it isn't core services like garbage collection?
Increasingly, our taxes are being used to fund a bloated City bureaucracy - their high salaries, premium benefits, and platinum pensions.
These costs are soaring - up more than 42% over the past seven years - and they're eating up an increasingly large share of the property taxes we pay each and every year.
As we've said before, our City government is becoming unaffordable and unsustainable for Calgary's tax base. The result of the growing cost of municipal government is not the only year on year property tax increases but also hikes to the fees, surcharges, and levies that Calgarians are also forced to fork out just so their garbage will be picked up.
And here's an important question - is your garbage collection 22% better this year than last year?
Is it being picked up 22% more frequently?
The short answer is - no.
Staying on top of the garbage pick-up schedule is already a chore - pick-ups on different days, with some pick-ups, happening weekly and others every other week.
Then, garbage collectors assess the state of your garbage against their "garbage standards."
If they decide your garbage falls short, they will refuse to collect it, and leave you a condescending note reminding you that you must adhere to their (apparently, quite high) garbage requirements.
If you violate the City's onerous garbage requirements - which fills more than three printed pages - they will slap you with fines or deny you service.
And for this, we pay an extra charge - for the privilege of having our garbage (occasionally) picked up the City.
In a column for the Calgary Herald last week, Calgary resident George Brookman outlined the folly that is garbage collection in the City of Calgary, and how residents are becoming entirely frustrated with the City's onerous new demands it requires citizens to adhere to if they want their garbage taken away.
Which brings us back to our original question - what are we paying property taxes for if we don't get core services like garbage delivery, and those services we pay extra for are badly delivered to us?
The fact is, our municipal government is now more of an employment scheme than it is about providing quality services to taxpayers.
And so long as the City continues to increase spending on salaries, wages, benefits, and pensions year after year, it will mean more money out of pockets paying for fewer services.
Our City government needs to learn to live within its means, and to deliver better services for less money - just as private sector businesses do each and every day.