Compassionate, common sense, community
In 2018 City Council approved our four year 2019-2022 budget. During this time I fought hard to shorten the list of additional spending items–moving away from funding pet projects and toward a priority driven framework. Twice a year during Spring and Fall Budget Adjustments we have the opportunity to revisit our overall budget to make real time course corrections. This is extremely helpful in a case like 2020 where we’re faced with an unprecedented economic impact due to a global pandemic. Being nimble and able to respond quickly to a changing environment means listening to you, and building a better city for all Edmontonians.
In this Budget Adjustment I will push for a 0% tax increase down from our previously approved rate of 3.2%. If achieved, this will be the lowest rate impact since 1997. I know this is a hard time financially and emotionally for many Edmontonians and this needs to be reflected in the way our City invests our money.
Last fall Council cut around $25M in response to a new provincial government budget that shrunk funding for municipalities. To achieve 0% this year we need to further reduce costs by roughly another $56.4M. Despite rumours of overzealous spending, we’ve been on a steady path of reductions during my time on Council.
What does $56.5M look like?
- 18.2M in workforce strategies (ex: personnel reductions, consolidating roles, vacancy management)
- 13.2M in service level reductions (ex: fleet services, turf modification, road maintenance)
- 9.7 in overall department efficiencies
- 6.4M in expense reductions (ex: things like travel, trainings, external contracts)
- 6.4M funding to partners (ex: Community Investment Grant, Community Facility Partnership Capital Grant)
- 1.4M in facility closures (ex: Eastglen, Old Scona, and Oliver pools due to age and high operating/maintenance costs)
- 1.2M in increased revenue/recovery
This means there will be cuts across the board for all departments, a decrease in roughly 300 employment positions, and a noticeable reduction in some service levels. All that said, I am mindful about getting to 0% in a way that still preserves our healthy communities, and keeps critical infrastructure on track for our growing population.
COVID-19 has put undue stress on households and businesses. Current economic forecasts show record unemployment levels and a significant drop in overall GDP. People are staying home, and businesses are shutting their doors. We need to be mindful of the effects COVID-19 is having on families and business owners when we make this year’s tax decisions.
Municipal property taxes are the number one lever the City has to pay for the services and programs we provide. In a recent survey 31% of respondents said they would like to see a tax increase to support service levels. Unfortunately, we’re unable to tax those who want to pay more or less based on income like other levels of government. We have to apply the tax rate for revenue across the board.
So this year, it’s my goal to get a 0% tax increase for 2021 while fighting for those programs and services that matter to you. This means ensuring user fees remain affordable, recreation opportunities are available, transit is frequent, safe, and reliable, and communities are empowered with initiatives supporting families and food. You want your grass cut, and you want snow cleared this season.
We still have things to look forward to in the Northeast for 2021. Rezoning for Station Pointe means we are finally able to begin development along Fort Road on land which has remained stagnant for years. Our inter-trail system will secure it’s final connection with a footbridge at our NE river crossing. The Yellowhead freeway conversion includes a new shared-use path on the west side of 66 Street for pedestrians and cyclists. Funding remains secure for renewal and revitalization. We saw Manning Dog Park open this year, as well as the interactive accessible Jumpstart playground at Clareview Rec Centre.
2020 has been a difficult year for many, and it’s our duty as a City to help relieve some of that financial pressure through our taxes. I’m working hard to limit the service impacts felt in our Northeast community. If we tighten now, I’m confident that we will be ready to hit the ground running on the other side of COVID-19.
As a Council we don’t set the budget alone. In order to get a responsible budget that reflects your goals I want to hear from you. Where do you think we should focus our priorities? What level of service would you like us to achieve? Call my office at 78-496-8138, email me at email@example.com, or connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.
On December 3rd Council will hold a non-statutory public hearing on these proposed budget adjustments. I invite you to register by calling the City Clerk at 780-496-8178 or online at edmonton.ca/meetings.