In an unexpected turn of events, Edmonton property owners have been informed that they will be slapped with a heftier tax increase in the coming year above what was initially budgeted. The city’s financial staff, after a crucial meeting on Thursday, decided to push the predicted hike by a further two per cent, escalating the forecast to a staggering seven per cent.
The City of Edmonton went public with its autumnal budget adjustment report, advocating amendments to the capital and operating budgets. This includes a controversial 7.09 per cent tax increase, which overshoots the 4.96 per cent approved by the city council in the previous December. This decision was made during their four-year budget determination, and the new estimation is 2.13 per cent higher.
Stacey Padbury, the city’s financial maestro and deputy city manager of financial and corporate services, made it clear to the press that maintaining existing services in 2024 will incur an additional cost of $41.2 million. This proposed tax hike, Padbury suggests, is to counterbalance the increasing costs and dwindling revenues, enabling the city to stay faithful to its four-year budget.
Padbury acknowledged, “The lingering economic repercussion of the pandemic has us all on our back foot. With increases in costs, particularly energy, it takes more for the city to deliver the same services.” She warns that their utility costs are witnessing a steep and swift increase as compared to what was initially anticipated.
Demands for services are soaring due to population growth exceeding expectations. The city’s financial backbone is also hindered by dwindling revenues from transit and Atco gas franchise fees, alongside an arbitration settlement for Edmonton Police employees, which was surprisingly high.
Homeowners in Edmonton, if subjected to this 2.13 per cent tax increase, can expect to shell out approximately an extra $200 in property taxes the following year.
The city staff is cautioning against allocating funds for many council priorities. Services like homeless camp response, climate initiatives, snow clearing, and infrastructure maintenance are on the brink.
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi expressed his preference for preserving crucial city services while striving to keep property tax hikes as moderate as possible. “My resolution is to reduce that two per cent increase to a relatively smaller figure,” Sohi pledged.
The city has previously slashed $60 million from the 2023-26 budget and is on its way to redirect $240 million to primary services. These actions will loom large in the councillor’s minds when budget discussions resume next month.
Coun. Tim Cartmell, representing residents in pihêsiwin Ward pihêsiwin, voiced significant concern about the report. He warned residents to brace for increasing costs and diminishing services and urged for a complete analysis of the budget and external expertise to ensure money is well spent.