Calgarians are dismayed over the prospect of a looming property tax increase.
The city’s 2024 budget adjustments hint at a rise in property tax from 5.7% to 7.8%.
Some city councillors refuse to support the hike, including Councillor Dan McLean.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable,” he told True North.
McLean argued that any increase is intolerable as residents struggle with an affordability crisis. Instead of rising taxes, the city should be doing away with them altogether.
“We should be at 0%,” said McLean.
Calgary has hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus, according to the latest budget. The city also has a fiscal stability reserve, which has millions in it as well, explained McLean.
“We’re getting ready to have pitchforks come down here at city hall,” said McLean.
He explained that he has seen people’s tax bills more than double in the last decade.
Increasing taxes is one thing if it improves services and safety within the city. However, McLean explained that this is not the case.
“What we’re seeing is taxes going up, safety going down, and services not really increasing,” said McLean.
“Not just my residents, but people from all over Calgary are fed up. They’re done. They’re upset.”
Looking at reports over the last years, McLean explained that the city has added over a thousand employees. He said that these employees make a salary averaging over $100,000 per year. This $100 million investment equates to a five-point tax shift in itself.
Many of those hired were not police officers or essential workers but people in planning or HR departments, which McLean explained he felt was unnecessary.
“We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem,” he said.
McLean added that some of the programs for which these employees were hired include diversity, equity, and inclusion, environmental and social governance, and climate change within the government.
“I would like to see a lot of those scrapped,” said McLean.
McLean draws parallels with Alberta’s Bill 1, which requires a referendum for tax increases.
“Your voice is heard the most at the ballot box,” he advised.
Calgary has 14 councillors and a mayor, resulting in 15 votes. To pass anything, you need to accrue eight or more votes.
When suggested following a similar path as the Alberta government did with Bill 1, McLean stated that the current city council would vote against such tax reform.