Bell: Calgary taxes up but you can choose, chickadee or magpie?

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You could find it.

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You could go to Attachment 7 of a report deep in the Calgary city council agenda.

The numbers are crunched. The final decision is made. The bills will eventually be in the mail.

The property tax rate for 2022 is going up by 3.61%.

In last fall’s election not enough candidates wanting a tax rate freeze won.

The tax rate going up 3.61% doesn’t tell you much.

You have to go further down the rabbit hole.

There are two parts to your property tax bill. Most of what you pay goes to the city. Some goes to the provincial government.

Let’s say you’re in a typical single-residential home with an assessment of $485,000.

On the city part of your bill, your taxes will go up 6.15%.

Again, 6.15%.

On the part of your bill where the provincial government calls the shots, taxes increase 3.63%.

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When you add it all up, here is what you get.

Your total property tax goes up 5.21% this year.

How does that translate in dollars?

$172 more a year, with $130 of the hike because of the city.

The actual amount on an individual tax bill will vary.

How did we get here?

Well, before this new council got their pinkies all over the budget after last fall’s election, the city tax hike was pegged at less than a single percentage point.

But Mayor Jyoti Gondek and many on the new council talked about what they heard at the doors of voters.

Calgarians told them they wanted spending.

“Austerity measures have put us in a precarious position,” said Gondek at the time.

Austerity measures?

Now that could be an April Fools’ joke.

Then again, if you told people Calgary city hall brought in austerity measures, few would be fooled.

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City hall also has a poll they paid for where Calgarians were asked two things.

Would you be willing to accept tax hikes to maintain or expand services?

Would you rather cut services to maintain current taxes or even cut taxes?

It’s 50% to 43% for Door No. 1.

No one is ever asked if they would like to see city hall really go through the budget with a fine-tooth comb to keep taxes low, including looking at the pay and perks at city hall.

The city hall questions assume there is no fat on the bone. On Wednesday, city brass talked about inadequate salaries for paper shufflers.

No surprise.

This is a city hall where they keep telling us how much money they’ve saved but the budget gets bigger and you have to be a forensic scientist to actually find out how much the Big Blue Playpen spends on its day-to-day operating budget.

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Ask a councillor? Most don’t have a clue.

In the end, there was little debate. The budget passed 11 to 3. Gondek is away at a green energy gabfest.

Not to worry. You get to vote online for the city bird. Black-capped chickadee, norther flicker, red-breasted nuthatch, blue jay, black-billed magpie.

Kourtney Penner, the councillor who took over the area Jeromy Farkas represented, worked hard on this one.

But don’t forget Brian Pincott, also elected in the past in Penner’s southwest Calgary ward. He went to the barricades over shark fin soup.

Dan McLean, a councillor from south Calgary where the mayor’s unpopularity is highest according to the latest ThinkHQ nosecount, was willing to beak off on a brainwave that was, plain and simple, for the birds.

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“I believe we have more important things to do. But, in the end, I did vote for it because I do like birds and, in fact, some of them are very tasty.”

There goes the vegan vote.

Then there is the old Bill 21 head-scratcher.

You know, where the mayor wanted Calgary taxpayer dollars spent to fight Quebec’s Bill 21 law, where government workers can’t wear religious symbols on the job. Hijabs, turbans and crosses, for example.

There was a council-led task force. Their great insight?

Don’t use taxpayer dough. You don’t say.

City council droned on with more than a few irrelevant questions as the clock ticked. They weren’t even flapping gums over the Bill 21 item at dinner time on Day Two of their gab-a-thon.

Yes, on Wednesday, you couldn’t help but sit back and think Calgarians had their chance last fall and blew it. Flipping through a stack of old columns I’ll admit it’s hard to believe.

We are left with the words of former Alberta premier William Aberhart, an orator of the airwaves also known as Bible Bill.

“If you have not suffered enough, it is your God-given right to suffer some more.”

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