Issues: Data Talk

How often do you hear our elected representatives or government officials got a pay rise or huge bonus, even when we are in a recession?
How often do you hear our government alleges that our tax is low or the lowest when compared with others while you find you bills grow bigger all the time?
How often do you hear our government saying they have helped with our businesses while you witness the opposite?
How often do you witness our city spreading a beautiful vision while you do not feel optimistic?
How often do you hear our city planning a billion-dollar project while you feel shy of your wallet?
How often do you hear our government generously planning our policing budget while you are feeling less safe than before?
How often do you hear our police asking for more money while more of them are sued for bully or even causing death?
How often do you hear people complaining about our city councils while decisions still made behind doors?
How often do you hear the city saying they saved millions and millions while your tax bill failed to prove it?
How often do you hear the city saying our tax rate increase was much lower than inflation while you do know that is a lie?
How many times were you able to tell the discrepancies between what they said and the truth?
How much do you feel you trust them?
How much confidence do you have on them?
With more questions than the above, I checked through the city’s annual report from 1998 to 2019, the discovery is not a one-page story:
  • 1. Mayor and Council pay

    Between 1998 and 2019, if inflation were followed as alleged, Mayor's pay would be $167k, not the 48% higher one of $247k, Council's pay would be $86k other than the 79% higher one of $154k.

    "Inflation Baseline": start from 1998, annual pay increase rate equals to annual inflation rate.

  • 2. Citizen Committee

    Inflation from 1998 to 2019 was 49%, while our city council enjoyed a 167% pay rise from $57.8k to 154.4k, matched with it was our per capita municipal residential property tax, a 184% growth from $234 to $664, what does inflation mean to these two flying numbers? As our Mayor had told us that ‘what we really need to remember is we don’t set those salaries, a citizen committee sets those”. Can anyone tell me who hired and paid those citizen committee?

  • 3. Police cost

    In 2019, it was $517 million which accounts for 13% of City's expenses. A 69% per capita policing expense off scale between 1998 and 2019 resulted the fact in news like: Calgary Herald, November 01, 2020 news with a title 'Crime index rose in Calgary and across Canada in 2019: StatCan', https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/crime-index-rose-in-calgary-and-across-canada-in-2019-statcan/ar-BB1azVYz.

    And that things changed to a point that more and more residents become just tired of filing reports to the irresponsive CPS or simply do not even expect a response after filing one.

    “Inflation Trend”: start from 1998, per capita policing expense increase rate equals to inflation.

  • 4. City salary and staffing

    Between 1998 and 2019, if inflation and population growth were followed as alleged, we would not have the overstaffing of 8% and overly increase of pay of average 32% (1998-2019) and we would be $479 million better off in 2019 than we actually were, which would mean property tax of $955 less per household or $10,005 less per business in 2019 alone.

    “Population based staffing”: start from 1998, staffing rate equals to population growth rate.

    “Inflation*Population Baseline”: start from 1998, total salary increase equals the combined inflation and population growth rate.

    Before 2007, City’s salary and tax was stable. Property tax took off in about 2007. City’s salary hike started from 2008, and it has since dragged property tax up higher and higher, a big part of the tax hike goes to compensate with City’s overstaffing and salary overgrowth.

  • 5. City Salary offset vs. Tax offset

    Since 2010, a big part of the expenses offset was due to salary offset, which accounts for 36% - 58%, an average of 47% of Expense offse.

    Between 2010 and 2019, City salary offset matches the combined residential property tax and business property tax offset by percentage of between 63% - 100%, averages 81%, which means 81% of the over taxation goes to City’s oversized paycheque, is this the ugly side of the truth?

  • 6. Cumulative salary and pension offset

    Between 1998 and 2019, if inflation and population growth were followed annually as alleged, the avoidable overstaff and overgrowth of salary and pension plan from 2011 to 2019 would be a cheque of $3.1 billion, from 2013 to 2019 would be a cheque of $2.49 billion.

    "$3.10 billion, 2010": start from 2010, till 2019, cumulative offset is $3.1 billion.

    "$0.24 billion, 2019": in 2019, offset is $0.24 billion.

    Does that mean we had almost paid off our share of the 2026 Winter Olympic bill of $3.2 billion ($5.1 billion budget, province pay $70 million, IOC contribute $1.2 billion, with $3.2 billion left on Calgarians) between 2011 and 2019?

  • 7. 2012-2013 salary rise vs. tax rise

    Our Mayor alleged that we raised property tax rate much lower than inflation,

    while in the year of 2012 and 2013, municipal per capita residential property tax was seen by a 14.1% over inflation surge in the amount of $79 million, while municipal business property tax (and business tax) was seen by a 4.8% over inflation surge in the amount of $38 million, a total of $117 million over inflation taxation, accompanied by City employees’ 10.3% above inflation average salary rise that amounted a total over inflation increase of $121 million in 2013 alone, can anyone explain if the $117 million over taxation had nothing to do with the $121 million over inflation pay?

  • 8. City’s pension pool

    It looks to me that higher and higher percentage of our property tax are flowing into City’s deep pension plan pool.

    Between 2008 and 2016, pension plan per employee raised 443%, and the dollar amount raised 524%, which means Calgarians bear the employee pension liability 524% higher in the future. Between 2001 and 2019, post-retirement benefits went up 420% from $34.5 million to $179 million, over 4 times of the combined population and inflation growth of 104%.

  • 9. Business tax vs. business number

    When our city witnessed the suffering of our downtown core businesses, how could a doubled or even tripled property tax bill be cold-bloodedly mailed to our inner town small businesses, letting so many of them no option but to close their doors?

    Businesses shuttered since oil price collapsed in late 2014. In 2019, the population-based business number projected at about 53,000, while the number of businesses dropped from 2013’s 49,368 to 47,878, 10 percent deviated from the normally projected number of 53,000, how much should it be of the result of the property tax hike? The answer might be in the chart below:

    When the number of business dropped by 940 from 49,368 to 48,428 in 2014, many of them were big oil and gas businesses in downtown, what the City did was rising municipal business tax by $110 million from $848 million to $958 million in 2015 and shift downtown business tax loss of $70 million entirely to small businesses, the result? A 20% increase of business tax on average businesses in 2015, and in 2016, we lost 696 businesses, in 2017, another 977.

    When businesses complained in 2015, other than blaming the downtown business tax loss, The City did not miss the excuse to complain loudly about the Provincial property tax increase. Yes, they did, by how much? $24 million, that is less than 22 per cent of The City’s business tax increase of $110 million.

  • 10. 150% tax increase

    The 2017 mayoral election was one lacking competent candidates. After Ms. Mallory Chapman shared her heart broken story during a mayoral debate that her Studio Revolution Fitness on our 17^th^ Avenue had been crushed by the 150% increase of the tax bill, how could the incumbent sit there so comfortably without even think about a solution?

    https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=10155844994283000&ref=watch_permalink

  • 11. Staffing during recession

    I felt it painful to watch the 2017 mayoral election debate. When Mr. Smith responded to Ms. Mallory Chapman: "these guys don't care about your tax dollars, they just spend like there is no tomorrow, we are in an economic downturn, and they continue to hire people, I don't understand that, I don't understand, it's not responsible and it's not responsible to you (Ms. Mallory Chapman), and I will change that (emotional as can be seen)."

    Mr. Smith was right: 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, City hired 765, 331, 340 and 317 more fulltime employees respectively, what Mr. Bill Smith did not mention was that City also raised average pay by 8% between 2015 and 2016, while the cumulative inflation of 2015 and 2016 were 2.58%. The direct cost of the new hiring above population raise and salary rise above inflation are $34 million, $111 million, $202 million, and $225 million more in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively, a total of $582 million, which is 49% of the total tax of $1.18 billion paid by all businesses in 2017, and accounts for $12,324 of property tax paid by an average business in 2017.

  • 12. Kensington Auto

    I feel curious how could a Kensington small business, like KENSINGTON AUTO, managed to increase their property value in the middle of an economic downturn by over 200% between 2009 and 2019.

    When the average non-residential property tax (exclude business tax) changed from 2009's $13,689 to 2019's $25,439, how could KENSINGTON AUTO get a tax growth from $12k to $75k?

    There was a “Business Tax” on top of “Non-Residential Property Tax” during these years, the above chart show specifically the “Non-Residential Property Tax” for “Kensington Auto” and the city’s average for a comparison.

  • 13. City tax vs. provincial tax

    While inflation from 1998 to 2019 is 49%, how did our average small business’ municipal tax total jump 134%, 85% off scale, along with per capita municipal residential property tax hike of 184%, 135% off scale, while during the same period of time, our provincial per capita residential property tax could grow only 27% off scale, 58% less than the City’s, and per capita residential tax could manage to stay 7% below the inflation by the year of 2019?

    “Inflation”, “City Average Business Property Tax”, “Provincial Average Business Property Tax”: all based on 1998 and show the increase by percentage.

    “Inflation”, “City Per Capita residential Property Tax Growth”, “Provincial Per Capita Residential Property Tax Growth”: all based on 1998 and show the increase by percentage.

  • 14. Per capita municipal property tax cumulative offset

    Should our municipal residential property tax stay align with inflation trend since 1998, between 2011 and 2019, per capita would have paid $2,428 less residential property tax; Between 2013 and 2019, per capita would have paid $2,062 less residential property tax; Between 2015 and 2019, per capita would have paid $1,549 less residential property tax.

    "$2,428, 2011": start from 2011, till 2019, an average resident's cumulative residential property tax offset is $2,428.

    "$316, 2019": in 2019, an average resident's residential property tax offset is $316.

  • 15. Per business municipal property tax cumulative offset.

    Should our municipal business property tax plus business tax stay align with inflation trend since 1998, between 2011 and 2019, average business would have paid $59,278 less property tax; Between 2013 and 2019, average business would have paid $48,789 less property tax; Between 2015 and 2019, average business would have paid $37,591 less property tax.

    "$59,278, 2011": start from 2011, till 2019, an average business' cumulative non-residential property tax (plus business tax) offset is $59,278.

    "$7,347, 2019": in 2019, an average business' non-residential property tax (plus business tax) offset is $7,347.

  • 16. City’s 2018 annual report

    On page 1, (https://www.calgary.ca/cfod/finance/plans-budgets-and-financial-reports/plans-and-budget-2019-2022/financial-reports/Annual-reports.html)

    It says that "We've identified more than $600 million in savings in our budget to help keep your taxes low and help your government be more effective. And we've managed to invest more than $5 billion into the local economy. We've made it easier for small business to start and to grow"?

    Questions are:

    Where is that $5 billion from?

    Where exactly was that $600 million identified?

    Who had initially hidden that $600 million?

    Who had identified that $600 million for us?

    What is the logic of annual tax hike spudded from our annually more effective government?

    How dare you say you had helped to keep our tax low while we had the apathetic tax hike annually?

    Are we blessed to hear these huge savings and enjoy the ever-rising tax hike simultaneously?

  • 17. City’s 2019 annual report

    On page 1, (https://www.calgary.ca/cfod/finance/plans-budgets-and-financial-reports/plans-and-budget-2019-2022/financial-reports/Annual-reports.html)

    It says that “we work to make sure that Calgary is the home for the world’s best entrepreneurs solving the world’s biggest problems”. Does it mean the world’s biggest problems are right here in Calgary? Or does it mean that our property tax hike during a recession is kind of the world’s biggest problem? And that we need the world’s best entrepreneurs to happily pay 150% higher property tax during a major recession?

  • 18. City’s 2019 annual report

    On page 4, it says "The actions the City is taking are focused on the following key areas: ● Making strategic investments in infrastructure ● Supporting business opportunities ● Focusing on our financial sustainability".

    Here is the news: Calgary Herald on March 29, 2019 as

    "Slammed by downtown 'tax shift'. Shop owners bail out of trendy districts"

    https://calgaryherald.com/business/local-business/spate-of-business-closures-hits-calgarys-most-popular-districts

    "In the span of two months this winter, Calgary's 17^th^ Avenue SW lost 29 businesses. The iconic retail and entertainment strip had 370 operating businesses in December 2018 and 341 at the end of February 2019 -- a decline of 8.5 per cent."

    Is this the accomplishment of "supporting business opportunities" or the consequence of "Focusing on our financial sustainability"?

  • 19. Homeowners unable to pay property tax

    11% of our Calgarians were unable to pay home property tax in 2020. If you could still remember that 3,331 homes were foreclosed in 1983, should I remind you that this time the 11% means over 55,000 homes? City spent over $49 million annually on social housing, while pushing up to 11% residents unable to satisfy its ever-rising property tax bill, is it contradictory?

  • 20. Water and sewer cost hike

    Can anyone explain if the 117% per capita water and sewer cost hike between 1998 and 2019 was reasonable? Especially those between 2011 and 2017, an 84% rise from 2010.

  • 21. Waste disposal cost hike.

    Can anyone explain if 648% per capita waste disposal cost hike between 1998 and 2019 was reasonable?

    Since 1998, Waste disposal revenue hiked from $13.7 per capita to $102.7 which goes 499% off scale.

    Since 1998, Waste disposal and Water and Sewer revenue over inflation and population goes up a lot off scale, and in 2019, Water & Sewer and Waste disposal account for 20.8% of City's Revenue, City made off scale profit from Calgarians in the amount of $250 million in 2018 and $240 million in 2019.

  • 22. Begging for billions

    Calgarians are well educated and independent, why did I feel our City Hall kind of like a crying baby begging for billions to chase a costly Winter Olympic when our Province was already years into an economic downturn, then begging for billions for an even more costly Green Line when we were double hit by a once in a century global pandemic?

  • 23. Crescent Height lead pipe.

    I can't understand why a lead contaminated water pipe in our Crescent Height community were not identified as a health hazards emergency, and a mere $5 million bill on the residents' property, within the City's utility right of way, could have deterred our spenders in City Hall for this many years.

    The 550 Crescent Height Calgarians living with lead contaminated water under our City's watch for so many years without a solution, while, at the meantime, how could the times more costly controversial Fluoridation project find its way into our City Hall again and again and get our City's persistent push for a through?

  • 24. Eyesore

    When so many of Calgarians were still suffering the painful disturbing $471,000 world’s most costly light pole, how could another no less jaw-dropping so-called art still get established with a $500,000 bill following a $236,000 Award winning wastewater lift station? No wonder our waste disposal bills simultaneously shiningly lifted.

  • 25. 14th street SWBRT

    With no passion to direct any LRT line to our Mount Royal University, full intention to avoid any LRT line from reaching out to our in-town international airport, how could a BRT line penetrate its way into our quiet 14th street SW communities disregard immense resistance from the residents?

  • 26. Winter Olympic

    It looks like many of our Calgary born city councils had forgotten that the 1988 Winter Olympic were 59 per cent overrun. The $2.2 million plebiscite that vetoed the estimated $5.1 billion cost of 2026 Winter Olympic has clearly shown Calgarians’ awareness of our City Hall’s budget credibility and the well-known Olympic budget overrun, which in the past 20 years had mounted a stunning average of 172%, and at the same time, the much more conservative South Korean’s Pyeongcheng 2018 Winter Olympics handed out a much lower but still alarming overrun of $5.9 billion above the original projected $7 billion, how could our City Hall still unshakably push the already cost-doubled Green Line disregarding an unexpected global pandemic?

  • 27. Winter Olympic risk

    If we were lucky to have as good a city hall with the same overrun of 59 per cent like the 1988 Winter Olympic, the 2026 Winter Olympic would still add $3 billion more upon Calgarians, and make it $10, 246 per household in total, or $454 annually for 30 years.

    If we reach a decent Olympic average overrun of 172%, it would add $8.7 billion, and make it $21,316 per household in total or $944 annually for 30 years, which means, for a 35-year-old and if you voted yes to the Winter Olympic, your parents at the age of 65 will bear $21,316 debt for the Olympics and you should be morally liable to pay their annual due of $944 till the time you reach 65, were you aware of that when you casted your vote?

  • 28. Green Line risk

    As no budget plan for the entire Green Line was presented, I had to do my own research, and my best estimate of the cost of Green Line is $12 billion at 2020's price tag, 167% higher than the initial proposed $4.5 billion, even if the provincial and federal government could keep their promise of shares of $1.53 billion each, the share of Calgarians would be $21,827 per household which means $967 per year for 30 years at 1.99% fixed interest rate or $728 per year for 30 years at zero interest rate. Every other Alberta household will have a share of an average $1,030.

    None of the councils in this city hall would be held accountable. You can foresee the foreclosure list on the city's website will be times more than that of the 536 on February 22, 2021, Detroit North will not just be a say.

    It sounds so familiar, City hall's big ego complained people for murder, for killing the Olympic dream, for killing the Green Line dream. I will comfortably admit the conviction if he chooses to lay such charges against me. I do plan to murder the Green Line, intentionally and mindfully, and I did jointly murder the 2026 Winter Olympics, thank God we were offered the rights to. Should there be a chance, more might be on my list, things like your big blue ring, Bowfort Towers art, luxurious Peace Bridge, and specifically the 14^th^ street BRT. By the way, I am not forgetting the 14th Street BRT yet, and I am not forgetting that you spent millions on a dead Olympic bid, and hundreds of millions on the unborn Green line, and I am now standing here with the intention to clean up the mess left in this city hall.

  • 29. Transit riders

    City has alleged that the Blue Line, SW BRT lines and the Green line will each increase the number of transit riders, while, upon the time two of them had already been opened, data show that number of transit riders in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 lower than that in 2007. Something is wrong here.

    "Transit Rider" data are provided by the city.

    "Transit Rider by Revenue" is calculated from city's transit revenue based on adult transit pass price.

  • 30. 2003 – 2019 major offsets

    City of Calgary from 2003 to 2019, population rised 39% from 922,315 to 1,285,711, while number of City fulltime employee increased by 47% from 11,581 to 17,003.

    From 2003 to 2019,

    Canada inflation rised 32%,

    our provincial per capita property tax increased 35% from $454 to $614,

    Fire Department expense increased 37% from $168 to $231.

    While,

    per business municipal property tax increased 103% from $9,982 to $20,292.

    per capita municipal property tax increased 129% from $289.3 to $663.9.

    per capita City expenses increased 52% from $2,005 to $3,044.

    per capita police expenses increased 87% from $215 to $402.

    per capita waste disposal cost increased 348% from $23 to $103.

    City fulltime employee average salary increased 64% from $53,236 to $87,314.

    Mayor pay increased 83% from $135,000 to $247,000.

    Council pay increased 102% from $76,571 to $ 154,357.

    City pension plan increased 376% from $1,143 to $ 5,436.

    At a point, we will have to make a tough decision, which is in this case ironically way too common in our oil industry, that is to undo our pay raise and undo the staffing, and cut the spending and the cost, there is no other way out.