Calgary Minute: Tax Increases, Green Line Rethink, and an I Told You So
Calgary Minute - Your weekly one-minute summary of Calgary politics.
This Week In Calgary:
There is no Council meeting this week, but there are five Committee meetings scheduled: The Foothills Athletic Park Redevelopment Advisory Committee will meet on Monday, the Priorities and Finance Committee on Tuesday, The Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development on Wednesday, and finally the Calgary Planning Commission on Thursday. The Event Centre Assessment Committee has been cancelled (the meeting, not the Event Centre!)
- The Priorities and Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday will likely be the most interesting of the committee meetings. For the first time in many years, Council may have to pay attention to the "Priorities" part of the committee's name, and make some actual prioritization decisions, rather than just relying on ever-more "Finance".
- Finally, the Green Line LRT debacle isn't going away anytime soon. It turns out that the areas of Calgary that were promised an LRT line based on the original plan and budget aren't too happy that they'll miss out entirely, now the project has doubled in price and halved in length, and fair enough. Councillor Jyoti Gondek has an obvious Common Sense solution - go back to the original plan of building a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) instead. It's significantly cheaper, more flexible, and could be ready in 2 years, instead of 10-20 years! Expect this to be big news this week!
Last Week In Calgary:
- Councillor Farkas got to say I Told You So. Last year, Farkas was basically called a lunatic for suggesting Council implement a spending freeze. Now that others on Council have finally realized how bad things are and that cuts might be necessary, Farkas pointed out that had they frozen spending last year, as he suggested, this year's budget choices would be much less stark.
- Mayor Nenshi repeated his oft-heard claim that Council has "saved" $641 million in recent years. There are only two problems with that claim. First, most of that isn't "savings", it's smaller increases in spending. IE: Council was planning to increase spending by $20 million, but only increased it by $15 million - a $5 million saving! Second, where spending has actually been cut, the left-over money was put into "reserves", which Council used to cover the tax shortfall. IE: They "cut" the money from one place, spent it in another place, and still count it as a cut!
A new report, Altus Group’s 2019 Canadian Property Tax Rate Benchmark Report, shows that, for the fourth year in a row, Calgary's commercial property taxes have gone up the fastest in the country. Taxes are up 55% in just 4 years!
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