Council decides on Calgary’s three-year future

Post Date: Wednesday, June 29, 2011
City Hall

Today, my City Council colleagues and I approved a three-year plan for Calgary. But while these decisions are ultimately our responsibility, we did not make them alone. Over the past months, we heard from thousands of citizens about the Calgary they want to see in the near future. Combined with the expert advice from City Administration, we’ve decided upon a plan that balances our revenues with our expenses in a way that continues to provide to all Calgarians the services we’ve all come to appreciate and expect.

Calgarians have told us that they expect the following priorities at the City of Calgary:

  • Ensuring every Calgarian lives in a safe community and opportunity to succeed
  • Investing in great communities and a vibrant urban fabric
  • Moving people and goods throughout the city efficiently and sustainably
  • Making Calgary the best place in Canada for a business to start and flourish
  • Becoming a more effective and disciplined organization
  • Changing the rules of the game to ensure better financial capacity

We have given each one of these priorities much thought and debate. With these, we are giving City Administration clear direction on what citizens want for their city.

But we must be fiscally responsible. We must continue to stamp out inefficiencies wherever they exist.

Part of today’s meeting was to set indicative tax rates. This is not the actual tax rate—this will be set in November—it is Council giving City Administration direction on how much of a budget we want them to operate within in the coming years.

This rate raises the bar to challenge City Administration to find efficiencies and develop creative ways to deliver the services Calgarians want. However, it’s important to note that because property tax is one half our revenue, municipal spending must increase by only half the rate of inflation. We won’t be able to sustain this forever, but I believe this is the time for step changes in efficiency.

Over the next few months, City managers will go back to each of their departments to figure out how to continue to offer quality services within the budget they have. Given what citizens want, this means that managers will still have to seek out efficiencies and even make some cuts to ensure that services are provided.

I’m confident that we’ve been able to keep the indicative tax rate as low as possible within the parameters given to us by Calgarians.

We also made a decision on water rates. For the past decade, previous Councils have made investments in the quality of our water and waste water infrastructure—the result is one of the best, most reliable water systems in the country. But those same Councils failed to pay for those investments. We have to stop passing the ever-increasing buck to our children and grandchildren. Today’s increase in water rates ( about $8 a month for the average bill) reflects the real cost of our investments and stops the cycle of buck passing.

- Mayor Naheed Nenshi

**NOTE: For an FAQ about the indicative tax rates, check out this post.