Calgary City Council Approves 7.8% Property Tax Hike for 2024 Amidst Deliberations on Budget Adjustments

Calgary city council is continuing budget discussions at city hall as a final vote on a massive property tax increase looms.

After extensive deliberations, the Calgary City Council has approved budget adjustments for 2024, resulting in a 7.8% increase in residential property taxes. The decision, following a 9-6 vote, comes as a response to the city’s need to address pressing issues such as public safety and affordable housing.

The tax increase, higher than last year’s 3.4%, signifies a substantial shift in the city’s fiscal strategy, partly aimed at alleviating the tax burden on businesses. As a result, average homeowners in Calgary can expect their property tax bills to rise by approximately $16 monthly. In contrast, non-residential property owners will see a less steep increase of 3.5%, equating to about $277 more per month for an average commercial property valued at around $5 million.

The 2024 budget includes funding for 28 new investment priorities, with a significant focus on public safety and affordable housing. This shift in fiscal strategy marks a departure from previous years’ approaches to managing the city’s finances.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek highlighted the urgency of addressing Calgary’s service needs, emphasizing the city’s proactive stance in tackling complex issues often left unaddressed by other government levels. “The line ‘there’s only one taxpayer’ is true,” Gondek said. “Sadly, the only order of government that has stepped outside its legislated mandate to actually serve the public has been municipal governments.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek and chief administrative officer David Duckworth were photographed during budget debate at City Hall on Tuesday, November 21, 2023. Gavin Young/Postmedia

The budget deliberations, spanning three days, involved public hearings and detailed question-and-answer sessions with city officials. Notably, over 20 amendments were proposed during the deliberations, aiming to reduce spending or mitigate the property tax increase. However, none succeeded, including motions to cut funding for a free transit program for children under 12 and Calgary’s mental health and addictions strategy.

Deborah Yedlin, President and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, described the council’s decision as a “step in the right direction” towards rebalancing property tax rates between residential and non-residential ratepayers. However, Yedlin also pointed out the need for further action to maintain Calgary’s competitive edge. “As the most entrepreneurial city in Canada, we need a policy environment that supports Calgary in being the destination of choice for business and investors,” she stated.

In response to the budget adjustments, council members expressed divergent views. Councillor Kourtney Penner, supporting the tax hike, emphasized the positive impact of the 28 investment items, stating, “I’m quite comfortable going back and showing how those dollars line up and what that investment looks like for Calgarians.”

Calgary Ward 10 Councillor Andre Chabot speaks with media outside council chambers on Tuesday, June 20, 2023. Gavin Young/Postmedia

Conversely, Coun. Andre Chabot expressed concerns about the increased tax burden on homeowners, suggesting that the council has exceeded its spending limits. “I can’t support all those wants,” Chabot remarked.

The new taxation formula, adjusting to a 53:47 split for residential properties, reflects a 1% annual increase in the residential tax share over the next three years. This adjustment aims to relieve the disproportionate tax pressure on Calgary’s business community.

The property tax bills for 2024 will be mailed out in May, with payments due by the end of June. Property tax assessments for the year will be sent out in the new year, providing residents and businesses with detailed information on their tax obligations.