Edmonton city council discussed Wednesday morning how to keep tax increases low over the next four years, as the mayor believes raises are an inevitable reality.

In the 700-page operating budget, city staff propose increasing property taxes in each of the next four years.

For the average homeowner, the proposed increases could mean an additional $79 next year, $72 in 2020, and about $50 more in each of the following two years.

John Rose, the city’s chief economist, said he’s watching the discussion closely, even if he thinks most households can handle the bump.

“The average household here in Edmonton is beginning to feel the pinch,” he said.

However, Edmonton’s mayor, Don Iveson, said no tax increases in the past have left extensive catch-up work for the current administration.

“One of the key budget principles for me in my five-point plan is not shortchanging our future in that way ever again. At least not on my watch,” Iveson said.

Services that keep Edmonton safe, clean and operational cost about $3 billion.

City staff are looking for ways to maintain those services while finding savings elsewhere to limit tax increases.

“We have to be very cautious in light of the provincial economy still being precarious about adding a whole bunch of new costs to tax payers when we know that household incomes are stagnating,” said Ward 10 Councillor, Michael Walters.

One possibility, discussed Wednesday, is a hiring freeze. The budget currently calls for about 750 new jobs.

The city also examined closing down old facilities whose use by the public is declining and but whose maintenance costs continue to grow. If implemented, this could put Oliver and Scona Pools, as well as the Eastglen Leisure Centre, on the chopping block, for example.

Budget talks will begin in earnest at the end of the month.

With files from Jeremy Thompson