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8.9% property tax approved by Edmonton council

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Edmonton city council unanimously agreed on an 8.9-per cent property tax increase Tuesday evening.

The increase means an increase of about $66 for every $100,000 in assessed property value.

The city says the collected tax dollars will help pay for more services, including the new Metro Line to NAIT, increased bus service, and a bigger homeless camp response.

"This budget allows us to continue to provide those services, sustain those services as well as enhance those core services and build more affordable housing and take action on climate change," said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

The final number was higher than the 6.6 per cent originally approved in the fall, as well as the 8.7 per cent that was discussed earlier in April.

"We are not permitted by law to budget for a deficit, and to reject this latest increase and go back to the 6.6 from the fall would have created that deficit," said Coun. Tim Cartmell. "We were pretty much sucked in and having to support this for now, but not forever."

Cartmell and numerous other councillors appeared reluctant to support the spring operating budget, despite passing it unanimously.

"If we were focused on our political careers, we should just say no, but I don't know how we say no," said Coun. Andrew Knack. "Even with this increase, we are not keeping up with the sheer volume of people who have moved in, so this is a pretty massive challenge."

"No one is happy when there's a tax increase. That's just the fact," said Coun. Aaron Paquette. "I will stand behind this budget even though, like everyone else, I am not happy with the amount.

"And yet, this is the amount that it is, and it is on par with what other municipalities are facing. And frankly, it's the first time we've been on par for a number of years."

Since 2015, the city has found $1.9 billion in efficiencies, the city said in a statement Tuesday evening. However, those savings have not been enough to offset rising operational costs.

Edmonton was facing lower revenues than had been forecast, in addition to higher labour costs after ratifying new agreements with police and unionized city workers and higher-than-expected population growth.

Coun. Michael Janz said the loss of provincial funding is also to blame for rising taxes, as more costs are downloaded on the city.

City money spent addressing a shigella outbreak in 2023, lost photo-radar revenue and the use of city firefighters to fill gaps in paramedic services have all been cited by the city as places where the province has fallen short.

Unlike Calgary, Edmonton does not receive any provincial funding for maintenance of provincial Highways 2 and 16 through Edmonton.

"Calgarians get an extra $20 million a year, which is equivalent to a one-per-cent property tax to pay for the care and feeding of Deerfoot Trail, a provincial highway," Janz said. "Yet Edmontonians get zilch."

Sohi said the United Conservative Party (UCP) has also reduced the amount of property taxes on provincially owned buildings in the city.

"That is an $80-million hit over since 2019, and almost a $19-million hit going forward," Sohi said. "So we have to make it up – $19 million amounts to 1% tax levy increase and $80 million is almost (a) 5% tax levy increase."

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said it's normal for municipalities to complain about wanting more provincial funding.

"That’s kind of their job," McIver said. "But that doesn’t relieve them of their job of having to make the best decisions they can within the funding available."

The tax levy provides more than half of Edmonton's operating budget, and Cartmell said the city couldn't afford not to approve it Tuesday night.

"We're in a position timing wise, where there's really not a lot of choices," Cartmell said.

"We have to get our notices out, we have to see that revenue come into city coffers," he continued. "To vote no would have put in all kinds of delay functions in that it would have really actually created a fair bit of chaos."

Council will bring forward a bylaw next week to set the new rate and tax notices will be mailed to property owners on May 23. Taxes will be due June 30.

Wednesday, council passed two motions presented by Cartmell to explore delaying the city's Neighbourhood Renewal Program and to scrutinize how the city builds projects.

"The neighbourhood renewal one is supposed to come for the fall update, so maybe there's some money that we can save in the fall, which would affect outgoing years," Cartmell said.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson and Craig Ellingson

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