Tax relief or transit improvements? Calgarians and councillors have ideas for city’s surplus

The City of Calgary has an extra  $147 million and council will decide what to do with it.

An audit of the city’s 2021 budget found the surplus, which was revealed this week.

“(In the) private business sector, they bonus their executives. What are we going to try to do? We’re going to bonus Calgarians,” said Coun. Kourtney Penner, who represents Ward 11.

Some councillors say they’re prepared to put forth a motion to use the money to repair sidewalks and roads, while other says their constituents want them to consider using the money to improve transit or increase the snow removal budget.

Dan McLean, the councillor for Ward 13, said he wishes council had known about the surplus last month, when they approved a property tax increase of just over 3.5 per cent.

“If there’s a mechanism of some way to return it to tax payers, some tax relief on their property tax bills would be my preferred method for dealing with that surplus,” McLean said.

On Monday, Mayor Jyoti Gondek rejected the suggestion that the surplus meant Calgarians have been overtaxed. She said there were always variations in revenue because of constantly fluctuating assessed home values.

“(The surplus can) be everything from keeping transit fares lower, to improving sidewalks and pathways, to investing it into snow clearing,” Penner said Tuesday.

“There’s lots of opportunities on the table and it’s about how we leverage those dollars as part of a bigger budget.”

Though some motions are expected from council members in the coming weeks, council may decided to defer the decision about what to do with the surplus until its budget deliberations in November.

For now, the money will stay in the city’s rainy day fund.

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