After weeks of debate and weighing pros and cons, Edmonton city councillors settled on a property tax increase of 2.6 per cent each year over the next four years with dedicated portions for alley renewal and LRT expansion.
“Council showed a commitment to economic resilience and keeping taxes reasonable while we continue to deliver the core services Edmontonians value,” Mayor Don Iveson said in a media release. “But we’ll also continue to look for cost savings and efficiencies to reduce this rate in the spring before final rates are set.”
On Wednesday, council spent the day of budget deliberations talking about roughly 20 amendments that total about $16 million over the four-year budget period. This budget plan will span 2019 to 2022.
Mayor Don Iveson said the city would look at taking money out of reserves in 2019 to pay for programs, then paying that money back over the next three years to make tax increases consistent over the four-year budget.
“Certain things would be deferred to come in in later years as opposed to hitting in 2019 — because there’s, frankly, room in the other years — and then that begs the question: What else can we smooth over… so that everything is baked in but the impact to the taxpayer is less on the front end.”
By using reserve funding, then paying those reserves back over four years, the city can keep the tax increase at inflation in each of the four years in the budget.
“If council will defer the implementation of items — which again, I’ve heard there’s some will to do that on certain things — that pushes the increases back and then for some of those one-time items that can essentially be paid for over two years, rather than paid for all in the first year.”
READ MORE: 2018 Edmonton tax increase set at 3.5%
A lot of spending decisions have been put off until the New Year so city council can get more information, including the issue of legal cannabis-related funding. Edmonton police were hoping to add 25 new positions related to enforcement pressures (at a cost of $5.5 million). Council put off that decision and will debate it in the spring.
Iveson said he’ll keep lobbying the province for the money that he says was promised from the federal government, but is being held at the provincial level.
Funding to mitigate against greenhouse gas emissions, and to prepare for severe weather events that are hitting the city more regularly, was approved.
Another big investment was committing $3.5 million for supportive housing. Until now, money was allocated on a year-by-year basis but wasn’t firmly entrenched in the budget.
Councillors also improved a small increase to the DATS budget, which will provide additional capacity for the service during peak periods. Council approved an additional $1.6 million for DATS over the next two years. DATS passengers have been calling for increased funding, citing poor response times and service inconsistency.
The $4.8 billion dedicated to infrastructure investment includes:
- $2 billion in the renewal of existing infrastructure
- $1.8 billion previously committed to transformational projects like LRT expansion and Yellowhead Trail
- Approximately $1 billion for new projects
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