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Edmonton property taxes may jump 7% next year: draft budget

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Edmonton property taxes are poised to rise about seven per cent next year with much of the higher-than-anticipated increase tied to more spending on police and utilities.

The city’s draft 2024 budget, released Thursday, would raise Edmontonians’ taxes 2.13 per cent above the planned 4.96 per cent hike for next year — a 7.09 per cent increase which would be the city’s highest since 2014 (7.3 per cent). City council set the city’s four-year budget last December with about a five-per-cent tax hike expected each year. Council is set to debate the draft in late November before finalizing the budget and tax rates.

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The bulk of added expenses in 2024 comes from salary settlements and an overall increase to the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) operating dollars amounting to a 1.63 per cent tax increase next year. The city will pay $19.72 million more for police salaries after an arbitrator imposed a new contract between the EPS and union in July. Another $11.8 million for police funding is set for 2024 after council approved a funding formula in August — a higher amount than the city indicated at that time.

Higher utility costs account for 0.62 per cent increase, adding $12 million to proposed $3.48-billion operating budget for 2023. Edmonton is also bracing for a $5 million drop in transit revenue because of a shift away from monthly passes with the ARC cards and lower ridership on the LRT network.

The proposed capital budget also adds about $89 million next year largely allocated to projects in dire need of repairs plus some affordable housing. Added spending proposed over the next several years would increase the 2023-2026 capital budget to $10 billion from the $7.9 billion approved last fall.

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Stacey Padbury, Edmonton’s chief financial officer and deputy city manager, said the city is facing financial pressures which accounted for the first deficit in years — $73.8 million for 2023.

This budget, she said, is largely about managing financial pressures and maintaining existing services — Edmonton expects to pay $41.2 million to maintain services — with some added spending for critical infrastructure projects and repairs.

“We have limited resources, and we know that many Edmontonians are also stretched thin. We are only recommending budget adjustments that are necessary to maintain our services and deliver critical capital projects,” she told reporters Thursday.

Property taxes were frozen in 2021 and rose 1.9 per cent in 2022 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she said the city can’t continue with such rates.

“These low tax increases were necessary, but they are not sustainable, especially in our current environment of high prices and significant population growth. It’s costing the city more to deliver the same services all while experiencing a growing demand,” she said. “We can’t continue to absorb the financial impacts we’re facing without adjusting taxes or our service levels, and it will likely take both strategies to ensure we don’t create long-term financial sustainability issues.”

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If city council approves the budget unchanged, property owners would pay about $750 for every $100,000 of assessed home value — $49 more than this year. Tax increases, however, affect individual property owners differently.

Edmonton’s economic forecast shows an expected boost in population next year which will support the city economically and create higher demands for goods, services and housing, a staff report states. However, the construction of new homes is slowing with fewer starts this year than last.

Looking for savings: mayor

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told reporters Thursday his focus heading into budget debates this fall will be improving core services such as public transit while also looking for other areas the city can pause, reduce or eliminate projects or services.

He said the proposed budget is a starting point for council’s discussions and they will review the items line-by-line to find savings, which will be difficult.

“I want Edmontonians to know the collective goal of council and city administration is to keep your taxes as low as possible while protecting the core services that you expect and deserve,” he said.

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“I also hear from Edmontonians they don’t want to see reductions in those services (such as public transit) because, in some cases, that’s their lifeline … It’s always a balance we are trying to create — how much people can afford to pay in taxes and how much they rely on public services.”

Ward pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell said he is “seriously concerned,” calling the proposed budget “unacceptable” in a statement on social media Thursday.

He too called for a “line by line” review of the budget and suggested the city needs to call in external experts to help challenge the capital budget costs.

“The 2024 budget is going to cost you more money and give you less. Less snow clearing than last year. Less grass cutting than you were promised and less maintenance for our roads, buildings and other infrastructure,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.

“If we don’t start to reverse this trend, a lot of people are going to be severely negatively impacted over the next three years.”



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