I take no joy in saying this, but the Spring budget adjustment is pretty much finalized, and it’s going to be really hard to swallow. 

And I mean that. There are those that simply cannot afford another increase in their household expenses. Property taxes do not discriminate, there is no test to determine who can afford them and who cannot.

You’ve heard the numbers. City taxes will go up 8.7%, education property taxes will go up 2.7%, the average total tax bill will go up 7.2%. But no one pays the average, and if your property value assessment goes up your taxes go up that much more. 

There may be a couple of things we can do to reduce that 8.7%, but not by a lot - and not by Tuesday night. We are out of time, the tax rates need to be set and the bylaws passed. 

Voting for or against this increase won’t make much difference either. We have structural constraints in our budget that are forcing these increases, and voting No doesn’t change that. A No vote means leaving the budget at the 6.6% approved last November, and running a big deficit, which by law needs to be repaid over the next three years. A No vote doesn’t eliminate the increase, it delays and increases it.

So instead, I intend to move a motion that might see some relief come fall. That motion will ask City Administration to consider three things:

  • Reduce annual capital spending. Stretch what we intend to spend in the next three years over five or six years instead. With a focus on annual costs like neighborhood renewal and equipment replacement. 
  • Reduce our contingencies. Our budgets include money that we know we will have to spend but which is not fully defined at budget time. Let’s sharpen the pencil and ensure we are not holding money we don’t need.
  • Examine our workforce, starting with our out of scope and middle management employees. 

I know our management employees are feeling targeted, and I don’t feel great about that. It isn’t personal. Our employees are not lazy. But they are not directed to priorities either. There is working hard and there is working smart.

I have been asking questions about the size of our workforce since I was first elected. And when I have asked those questions, I have repeatedly been told that any further reduction - or restructuring - of our workforce would mean a reduction in services.

Yes, I know that.  That is exactly the point. We cannot be everything to everyone, we cannot solve every concern with property tax revenues. 

I have been saying it for years. Before you can change the budget, you have to change the structure that drives it. 

You may have heard that Administration was instructed to find $240M to redirect to current priorities. Well that effort didn’t produce meaningful savings, and what was identified was quickly redirected, and not to property taxes.

Council’s mistake in 2022 was asking City Administration to find that $240M by reducing their own budget. That was always destined to fail. This needed to be a Council directed exercise.

A Mayor and Council needs to lead - not just make motions and cross our fingers.

Taking a budget and structure from 20 years ago and tweaking it here and there with the expectation that we will get meaningful results was folly. I said this in December 2022, it went unnoticed and I voted against the budget in part because I knew this motion would never get us what we needed.

What we need to do is tear this budget down to the studs and rebuild it for the City of today. We can’t keep saying “this is the province's fault.” There are issues with provincial funding support that I’ll address soon, but we have to look in the mirror first.

Call it Zero Based Budgeting, call it Priority Based Budgeting, call it whatever you want. But the time has come for a blank sheet and a budget built from the ground up. A budget built with the input of our front line staff, our union partners and our residents.

Time’s up. Enough is enough. We need to fix this.

Timothy Cartmell


Honoured to be the City Councillor in Edmonton's Ward pihêsiwin. #yegcc #Wardpihêsiwin