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In regard to the “Tax Shift” issue facing Calgary I would like to provide context on how I proceeded with my vote. And,why I voted no to the residential tax increase, and will oppose any further residential tax increases.

As we know, “the steep and rapid decline in the market value of a small number of high valued downtown properties has resulted in a redistribution of property taxes ($250M from 2015-2018) to other non-residential properties, causing untenable property tax increases for some property owners” (Calgary.ca).

This means that, as a Council, we were tasked with the large and complex challenge of addressing this significant loss of revenue in our annual budget. We did this by weighing our ability to reduce the overall tax revenue required, transferring tax share between non-residential and residential payers, and drawing on reserves and/or one-time funding sources.

But, for me, the main issue still has not been adequately addressed. I have been saying for the last 5 years that the City has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. That means, regardless of how we navigate the waters this time, because we cannot get our spending under control, we will continue to find ourselves in these types of situations in the future.

Reducing frivolous spending was a main theme of my original campaign and remains a focus of my work today. I believe that we,as a city, were far too prosperous for far too long to now find ourselves in such hardship and only a significant culture change will fix things. Unfortunately, some will say, we are simply reaping what we have sowed. Which is spending more money than we earn, focusing too much on wants while not being able to stick with need based budgets, and not properly accounting for the ebbs and flows of our economy.

That being said, I am excited to finally see that reducing the overall tax revenue required to run this city (aka stop spending so much tax dollars on services and projects we do not need) is FINALLY on the table as an option. Over the last half decade, I have found myself in a very small majority on votes to limit city spending far too often. So, to see the option to reduce our budgets is somewhat comforting. However, if I had my way, we would find this entire 250 million short fall through budgetary cutting alone. I would put all city spending “on the table” and subject it to priority-based cuts, and no more pet projects.

Instead, I had to select between the options before me and chose the option that best supports long-term economic health for all Calgarians. My choice will be made with the knowledge that businesses create jobs and are fundamental in supporting our communities, but we cannot overly impact residential property owners.

I have received large numbers of comments on this issue, especially from seniors, who will suffer the most from this action. This is far from ideal, and only serves to galvanize my resolve to reduce frivolous spending so we do not have to make these types of lose-lose choices in the future. As such, I will continue to advocate for needs based only budgetary spending and only support projects that have a positive return on investment for Calgarians.

Sean Chu

Sean Chu

Sean Chu arrived in Calgary from Taiwan in 1985 speaking not a word of English, and within 7 years he was a sworn officer with the Calgary Police Service. From that point on Sean worked with the Calgary Police Service as on Officer for 21 years in a number of roles until 2013.

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