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Calgary's $52 Million Tax Surplus: Public Engagement Process Ends

06/03/2013 02:25 EDT | Updated 06/03/2013 02:32 EDT
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The dragon has spoken, Calgarians have voted, now it's all up to the city to pick the winning entry.

After two weeks of public consultation that saw thousands of Calgarians tell city council what should be done with a $52 million tax surplus, feedback outlets are now closed and the results will be submitted to city council in the third week of July.

Responses collected from Calgarians will also be posted online the second week of July.

"You can also see what Calgarians like and disliked about each of the five options," the city's website states.

While some questioned if the initiative was all a gimmick, Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi insisted a decision had not been made going into the public engagement exercise.

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The Five Options For Calgary's $52 Million Tax Surplus

Citizens were encouraged to vote online, call the city, or attend events around town. To kick off the debate, Nenshi and Calgarian Brett Wilson hosted a Dragon's Den-inspired pitch session in which the former CBC dragon heard pitches from aldermen on how they would want to see the surplus used. Wilson shot back with some pointed questions of his own.

The dragon admitted he preferred some options more than others.

"I happen to believe that we need to continue investing in infrastructure," he said.

The five options given to Calgarians include transit, reducing non-residential property taxes, revitalizing communities, reducing the debt or lowering the tax that homeowners pay.

The $52-million surplus materialized after the city budget estimated the province would ask for more money than they actually did in 2013.

The money cannot be used for day-to-day expenses, according to council policy and will therefore be used to fund one of five projects.

“This is a significant amount of unbudgeted money,” said Nenshi.

“We’ve debated five options in Council — all of which reflect the priorities of Calgarians — and this is our opportunity to engage with citizens to hear what they think before Council makes a decision in July.”