Councillor Spencer on the 2021 Budget Surplus

Council recently had the opportunity to review the audited financial statements for The City. This is an annual process that requires Council to approve the statements — before they are submitted to the Province — which oversees all municipalities. These financial statements were for the 2021 fiscal year, and therefore not directly connected to decisions made by this Council, as their term began in October.

We were informed that The City is carrying a non-budgeted surplus from business activities in 2021 to the tune of approximately $147 million. The sources of these additional funds include investment income, property taxes due to a greater number of homes constructed, Enmax earnings due to higher resource prices, sale of land and assets, as well as savings through operating efficiencies. It is important to note that achieving a surplus isn’t an anomaly.

The Municipal Government Act (MGA) in the Province of Alberta does not allow municipalities to run a budget deficit. This forces cities like Calgary to budget with an allowance for surplus, to prevent the possibility of a deficit position. Part of what surpluses are allocated to are several reserve funds that allow The City to respond to major events or opportunities to fund concerns outside of the normal budget process. These include events such as the 2013 flood, 2020 pandemic funding, and initiatives like the Calgary Transit security boost provided in early 2022.

In terms of our current 2022 tax year, this Council passed budget adjustments last fall without the final 2021 figures being made available to them. There was no information presented that inferred there would be a budgetary surplus from the previous year that would allow new spending, without a tax increase. I am making inquiries as to whether this is common practice or if there is a mechanism to provide more recent information regarding current budget positions. It is certainly frustrating to learn there were funds available at the same time we were approving important budget adjustments and a corresponding tax increase.

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Councillor Spencer’s First 100 Days and Top 5 Priorities for Ward 12

Thank you for finding your way to this post reflecting on my first 100 days as the Councillor for Ward 12. My office team and I are pleased to report on the work that has been done with the new City Council — and even more excited about the work ahead of us. While the adjustment has been intense, I am enjoying the challenge and the opportunities every day presents to serve Ward 12 and all Calgarians.

You may recall, I campaigned with a 100 Day plan, focusing on five specific priorities gleaned from what I heard from you at the doors and in the community. What you will find below is an update around those priorities and the actions we have been able to take thus far. Influencing these priorities has been a considerable learning process and requires establishing strong relationships. All five priorities are large and multifaceted and will continue to be priorities over the full four-year term. 

On a personal note, my wife and children have been gracious and accommodating with the changing routines and for that I am extremely grateful. We have reclaimed our weekend getaways to the mountains and thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas break with the time it provided for much-needed rest and relaxation.  

 

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Initiative #6: Ward 12 Deserves Diversity & Inclusion

Promoting a learning culture by actively listening to our neighbours in Ward 12’s communities creates commonality where we can learn about and understand our unconscious biases and how to overcome them. Diversified communities encourage residents to interact respectfully and provide accessible and inclusive services to ensure quality of life is better for everyone who lives, plays, and works in them. For Ward 12 this includes, but is not limited to, our neighbours who are:

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Resource Guide & Statement About National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The Government of Canada recently passed legislation to make September 30th a federal statutory holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day provides opportunity for public servants to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools.

While the Government of Alberta, disappointingly, chose not to recognize this new statutory holiday and its important purpose and meaning, the City of Calgary has and so have our public and separate school boards.

Not everyone will have the opportunity to take this day off to reflect and honour, but I hope everyone does take time to consider what it means to be a great neighbour, to help foster thriving neighbourhoods, to know the true history of Canada, and to understand the legacy of grief and pain many of our Indigenous neighbours carry with them. We all have a responsibility in a caring society to ensure every neighbour feels safe, secure, seen and included. 

For our Indigenous neighbours, this means listening and bearing witness to their stories while laying the burden of learning at our own feet. There are hundreds of resources available to become informed and educated about residential schools, stories, the history of colonization, and the 94 Truth & Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. Please use this list as a starting point:

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Initiative #5: Ward 12 Deserves Activated Calgarians

One of top five priorities of my platform is to Activate Calgarians. I want to give you the tools you need to spearhead meaningful change in your community, and I want to repair the disconnect we feel between City Hall and us as residents. Let’s make progress simple and more attainable. 

Calgarians are right to be frustrated when they have to use an impersonal service to deal with personal needs. I’m going to change that. I'm going to empower Calgarians through local Community Associations, encourage and facilitate volunteer opportunities, provide funding for community initiatives, modify redundant by-laws and invest better resources into 311 so you can get the answers you need faster. 

We shouldn’t have to rely on The City of Calgary to solve every problem that we can easily work out ourselves. That’s not efficient. That is not activating Calgarians. Often we hear, “that’s just the way things are,” and this is something we need to challenge. We should be afforded the ability to be a part of our own solutions. We can’t afford to wait for a system that is already overloaded, overworked, and spread dangerously thin. Lack of transparency, overspending, tax hikes, inconsistent regulations, financial scandals, or and infighting between City Business Units have caused undue uncertainty and frustration. Solutions can be simple, attainable, and expedient. 

As I have laid out in my Value for Tax blog, Calgary is still finding its new equilibrium after our economic downturn caused by the drop in oil prices and the ongoing pandemic. The City of Calgary is a service organization that seeks to run like a business. This is an admirable and important aim but The City is more than just a goods and services provider. Calgarians are more than just consumers of these goods and services. We are ALL in this together anad Calgary needs to rethink how it empowers local Calgarians. Bureaucratic hurdles and roadblocks need to be relaxed, not tightened.

It is time to activate Calgarians to be part of the build-back strategy, with Ward 12 leading the way to demonstrate what is possible!

Evan Knows - A Four-Step Action Plan to Activate Calgarians

               

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Initiative #4: Ward 12 Deserves Safe Community

Community is a cornerstone motivation behind everything I do. It is also one of the distinctive draws for living in the suburbs of Ward 12 — the enhanced sense of community and the corresponding sense of safety and security. We all want to feel connected and surrounded by a community that is actively looking out for us, our loved ones, and our employees and co-workers.

When this sense of safety and security is violated by a home invasion, traffic incident, prowling, fire, or any other type of safety issue in our neighbourhood, it can easily shatter our confidence. Building that trust back can take months if not years and unfortunately it can forever change how we think about our neighbours and neighbourhood when unaddressed.

Protecting our sense of community and our collective safety is of utmost importance and will be an ever-present priority for me, as your Councillor. This issue is multifaceted and deserves a multifaceted approach. Nearly 25% of every tax dollar goes to Bylaw & Public Safety and 14.36% for our Police Service. Proper funding for enforcement is extremely important but it cannot provide community safety on its own.

Evan Knows - A Four-Step Action Plan to Community Safety in Ward12:

                  

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TPA and PAC Funding Not Needed by Ward 12 Councillor Candidate Evan Spencer

Calgary, AB, September 27, 2021 Evan Spencer is running for councillor in Ward 12. Spencer is the non-partisan candidate with cross-partisan popularity setting him apart from other candidates in the ward. His forward-thinking, inclusive approach to municipal governance is resonating with many. Collaborating with others to champion local initiatives that create a thriving ward and city, for the betterment of all citizens, is what drives Spencer. His bootstrapped campaign is laser-focused on what elected municipal officials can influence through positive advocacy.

Spencer was one of the first municipal candidates in Alberta to sign the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association Pledge a voluntary candidate commitment to support democratic municipal elections by keeping local elections local, maintaining independence and non-partisanship, demonstrating transparency, and engaging in respectful behaviour. To date, Spencer is the only Ward 12 candidate to make this commitment.

 

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Initiative #3: Ward 12 Deserves A Strong Economic Recovery

Its impact is nearly universal and actively limits options and opportunities for Ward 12 and The City of Calgary — economic recovery is a massive priority.

We can no longer rely on downtown revenue to cover most of our budget. It’s time to attract new investment, diversity into new sectors, and remove bureaucracy that is slowing down progress.

Working alongside organizations like Calgary Economic Development, Calgary’s elected officials can aid or detract from selling our City and way of life. It takes strong collaborative leadership to put our best foot forward and it also requires teachable servant leadership. I have a track record of connecting with people and also giving them room to make their contributions. Effective leadership creates a wave of team buy-in and I look forward to bringing this focus on what local business leaders want, not what I want, to City Hall. 

Evan Knows - A Four-Step Action Plan to Help the Local Economy Recover:

            

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Initiative #2: Ward 12 Deserves Value for Tax Dollars: Asset Management, Improve Economy, Spend Smarter


I am prioritizing this Value for Tax Dollars platform as an immediate priority in my first 100 days as your new Councillor. It is time to spend smarter and rethink how we use our tax dollars. It will be incumbent upon the new council to do the hard work of pushing for the savings that Calgarians are demanding while making wise investments for the future. 

Not feeling like you are getting value for the taxes you are paying to The City? You are not alone. For the past 10 years, we have watched our property taxes steadily increase and now our City services are visibly on the decline — our confidence declining in tandem. I will work hard as your Councillor to ensure residents of Ward 12 get the highest possible value for their tax dollars. 

Evan Knows - A Four-Step Action Plan to Improve Value for Your Tax Dollars & Manage Assets Better

 

                  

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Initiative #1: Ward 12 Is Promised A Green Line (Again). We Can’t Afford To Wait.

I am prioritizing this Green Line platform as an immediate priority in my first 100 days as your new Councillor. The Green Line is one of our best tools for immediate economic recovery and, with potentially 9 new council members taking seats in City Council, it will need a leader who already understands the history, opportunity and potential to continue defending and championing it. Ward 12 residents and business need someone who will waste no time keeping the plans going. 

Evan Knows - A Four-Step Action Plan to Keep Green Line on its Tracks

 

                  

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