(2 minute read)
Today Calgary City Council is in the middle of our week-long budget deliberations. This budget is the last of the four-year budget, the 2015-2018 Action Plan, that we started one year into the last term and so it carried over into this one.
In January 2018, City Council and City Administration will begin the year-long process of establishing the next four-year business plan and budget cycle, that will be called One Calgary. I'm really looking forward to working with Calgarians in general, and Ward 9’s East Calgary communities specifically, on that. We're going to do very deep and meaningful engagement and we're setting ourselves up to be in a position to take the Great Neighborhood's transformation to the next level.
Getting back to the budget before us, this 2018 budget was a really difficult one. City Council gave City Administration some very tough marching orders. We directed them to reduce taxes and increase services (this is the kind of balancing act you can only perform when you're in the middle of transforming the organization).
I think we're striking that balance well. This year we're looking at putting almost $2 billion of capital work into the economy, building the city that we need and keeping Calgarians employed.
This budget balances that direction pretty well. One important feature of this 2018 budget is that the City of Calgary will be using $23 million of tax room to pay for the financing fees for the Green Line, making this historic project in connectivity and city building even more viable.
Another important aspect of the 2018 budget is something that City Council has heard prior to, and during the last election - safety, safety, safety. This year, the Calgary Police Service is asking for $20 million to increase their ability to serve us in this downturn in the economy, whose effects have been exacerbated by this fentanyl-driven crime wave. I'm very supportive of this ask from the Calgary Police Service and I expect Council will support that as well.
Lastly, another significant add-on in this 2018 budget is $4 million to maintain our soberingly and amazingly successful low-income bus fare project. What City Council learned is that there are many more citizens in Calgary who need the low-income bus fare program that we planned for. While this is a provincial responsibility, the City of Calgary cannot and should not deny mobility and access to the users of this program. We will be pursuing the province for them to pay their appropriate portion of this program in the very near term.
The discussions from City Council that is emerging is very interesting and I look forward to hearing and participating in the debate that is soon to come. We’ve had a lot of thoughtful insight, and a lot of that thoughtfulness is translating into what we're going to be doing over the next four years.
As the last budget in the 2015-2018 Action Plan, City Council is dealing with the downturn of the economy, and I will be looking towards ensuring a budget that puts the Calgarians, Calgary businesses, organizations, and institutions in a position where we are coiled and prepared to move forward into years of growth and prosperity over the next four years.