As we all finally get a chance to wind down a bit, I wanted to offer a few observations on Council’s Budget deliberations.
As I am sure you have heard by now I DID NOT support the budget. In the end, I could not support some of the decisions embedded in the budget, and I could not support four consecutive annual tax increases of 5%.(4.4% in 2026).
Council deliberations began at a base of a 3.9% tax increase each year for four years. I didn’t think Council could make enough changes to reduce spending in the base budget, to both lower those increases and direct funds to what constituents told me they wanted me to support.
DETAILED OPERATIONS REVIEW
During last year’s election campaign, I talked frequently about our need to develop a “Committee of Supply” at City Council. Other orders of government table their budget, and then publicly debate that budget on a Ministry by Ministry basis. I wanted to take that same approach in the City.
I was happy that I was able to push this deep dive operational review, which sets a goal of $240M of reductions into the omnibus motion that began our budget deliberations. This was our chance to drive a realignment of the City’s budget with those things constituents have told us they want to see supported.
Going into deliberations, there were things I wanted to support.
I supported increases to our event attraction and economic development, including investments in Fort Edmonton Park, Explore Edmonton, and The World Triathlon Championships.
I wanted to support our more pragmatic energy efficiency strategies - our district energy strategy, our building energy retrofits, and our Clean Energy Improvement Program.
I felt compelled to support legacy projects such as the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre and Terwillegar Drive. These projects represent commitments to our constituents, based on considerable and significant past community engagement. And they have significant contractual commitments that generally cost almost as much to cancel as they would to continue on with the project.
Ward Pihêsiwin has its own share of ongoing projects, so the only item I advanced was the continued design of the new Riverbend Library. There just was not the capacity to advance any other projects at this moment in time.
To compensate, I wanted to see significant budget reductions, starting with over $250M in land development investments. I supported other reductions as well, including large decreases in middle management positions in Human Resources and Communications departments.
The bottom line is this:
5% increases in 2023, 2024 and 2025, and 4.4% in 2026.
20.7% over 4 years.
The numbers above are just the starting point. How much you pay in tax depends on your property value assessment. If the value of your property goes up, your taxes go up.
That tax increase will end up a lot higher than 5%. On top of energy cost increases. On top of increases at the grocery store and the gas pump.
This is untenable, and I could not support it.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
My office will be closed for the holidays. If you have an urgent City concern, please call the City’s Service Centre at 311.
This holiday season is a joyous time for most of us, but it can also be a challenging time for some. I encourage you to connect with a friend or relative over the holidays. So often that simple effort of calling just to chat for a few minutes can make all the difference. Let’s take care of one another, take the joy that we feel in our own fortunate lives and pay it forward.
If you or someone you know is struggling and needs help, access to resources or just someone to listen, please call or text the Canadian Mental Health Association’s 24/7 information and referral line at 211. See here for more information about this fantastic community resource.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful and prosperous New Year! See you in 2023!
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