ABOUT THE PROJECT


Calgarians (or visitors to Calgary) pay a fee to use some City services, for example, the fees paid for water utilities, licences, permits, yoga classes, sailing lessons and soccer field rentals. When a service charges a fee and how much that fee is for an individual is guided by legislation and The City’s User Fees and Subsidies Policy.

This policy was last reviewed in 2008 and amended in 2012. As a lot has changed in the last 10 years, we are now reviewing the current policy with the aim to have an updated policy in place by 2023. See the timeline on the right for the steps in the policy review process and future engagement opportunities.


A subsidy is a sum of money used to assist in the delivery of a good or service to keep price down for the customer. The City uses property tax funding to subsidize some goods and services that charge a fee, so their price remains low and better meets the needs of Calgarians.

Determining how and when The City should use property taxes to lower the price of a service is central to the user fee policy. Four principles are proposed to be included in the updated policy and we are seeking your feedback on these.


Endorsement Statement on Anti-Racism, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

The purpose of The City of Calgary is to make life better every day. To fully realize our purpose, we are committed to addressing racism and other forms of discrimination with our programs, policies, and services and eliminating barriers that impact the lives of Indigenous, racialized and other marginalized people. It is expected that participants will behave respectfully and treat everyone with dignity and respect to allow for safe spaces free from bias and prejudice.


PROVIDE YOUR INPUT HERE

To make sure the updated policy meets the needs of Calgarians now and in the future, we need your input. We are asking for your feedback on four proposed principles from September 1 - 30, 2022.

Click on any of the four tabs below to read about each of the four guiding principles. Then let us know any feedback you have for each principle, if there is anything we should add or any concerns. The feedback box is located after each description and please click submit for each response.

After reviewing each of the four guiding principles, there are general closing questions below.



Full Cost Principle

Full Cost Principle - The City should have a complete understanding of how much it costs to provide a good or service before setting a fee.

Principle details

  • Direct, indirect, overhead, capital and administrative costs should be included.
  • Where possible, non-monetary costs should be included.

How it works in practice

The City calculates the full cost of providing a good or service by looking at all costs associated with its delivery. Understanding the full cost provides a foundation for the other principles to be applied and a decision can be made on how best to fund the service (through fees, public funding, or a mix of both). Knowing the full cost of providing the service is also important to pursue funding from other orders of government. An example of how the full cost of swimming lessons is calculated is shown below:



Direct costs example - swim instructor wages plus Indirect costs example office expenses such as computers, pen and paper plus Overhead costs example - the swimming pool's utilities plus Capital costs example: - pool equipment plus Administrative costs (e

An example of how the full cost of swimming lessons is calculated.

Benefits Principle

Benefits Principle - Those who benefit from the use of a service should pay for that service.

Principle details

  • The City should assess the benefits provided by a good or service and determine how the service benefits both the community and the individual.
  • The benefit to the individual should provide the basis of charging a fee.
  • The proportion of the benefits to the community should be publicly funded.
  • Pricing of goods or services may be structured to achieve community goals.

How it works in practice

The City assesses a service’s benefit to the community and to the individual user to determine how a service is funded. For example, when a person uses transit rather than a car, there is a community benefit (such as less traffic, reduced need for road maintenance and lower greenhouse gas emissions). There is also a benefit to the individual (transportation). As a result, a portion of transit should be publicly funded and a portion paid by the individual using transit. This mix of funding encourages the use of services that, through their use, benefit all Calgarians.

Resource Efficiency Principle

Resource Efficiency Principle - City services should seek to maximize community benefits

  • Public resources should be allocated to maximize the overall benefit to the community including striving to meet diverse needs.
  • Fees for goods and services should be structured to encourage appropriate service use and evaluated relative to market conditions.

How it works in practice

The City uses limited public resources (such as land, buildings, facilities, funds, and equipment) to create the most benefit for Calgarians while addressing diverse needs and considering market conditions. This maximizes benefits to individuals and the community.

The pricing of fees should consider fees charged by others for similar goods or services, service demand, and availability of alternative services. For example, when setting fees and schedules for swimming, consideration should be given to prices at private facilities and other municipalities; capacity and demand; and the opportunity to meet diverse needs (for example, providing swim times to meet specific cultural needs). This encourages the use of the facility, revenue generation and benefits to the community including meeting diverse needs.

Ability to Pay Principle

Ability to Pay Principle - All Calgarians should have the opportunity to access city goods and services.

Principle details

  • The City should provide reduced rates or rebates to individuals and groups who are otherwise unable to purchase a city good or service.
  • Reduced rates and rebates should be applied after full cost and pricing is understood.

How it works in practice

Services can offer reduced rates to people who are not able to pay for a service due to their level of income. An example is a sliding scale for low-income transit passes where the less a person earns, the less they will have to pay. This principle also provides the reason for offering facility bookings (such as meeting rooms) at a reduced rate to non-profit groups.

Closing Questions

A group of 4 friends walking in the park.  One of the friends is holding a coffee. Another friend is in a wheel chair with a golden retriever guide dog at his side.

Here's what we've heard so far - past engagement

Calgarians have mixed responses when discussing the impacts of user fees and taxes on their quality of life. These are the top themes (or subjects) from feedback obtained during 2023-2026 Service Plans and Budgets Phase 1 engagement. More information on that project can be found by clicking here.

  1. Participants believe that visitors should have to pay higher user fees. Participants expressed, in the latest Service Plans and Budgets engagement, that they think visitors should have to pay more for tax-funded services to make up the difference contributed by those paying taxes.
  2. Some respondents continue to be confused about the role of user fees and taxes within municipal service funding. During several different engagements, many Calgarians have expressed frustration and anger towards the organization’s choice to increase fees and general taxes without understanding its connection to the level and quality of service.
  3. Participants expressed concerns about equity and the impact of fees on low-income earner. Personal financial concerns regarding the inaccessibility of rising fees were a common worry. Some people from the Financial Conversations engagement stated that they would be comfortable with a modest increase in taxation to support the development of equal access options for services. Others have supported eliminating user fees in the case of essential services.
  4. Some respondents continue to be confused about the role of user fees and taxes within municipal service funding. During several different engagements, many Calgarians have expressed frustration and anger towards the organization’s choice to increase fees and general taxes without understanding its connection to the level and quality of service.