EDMONTON -- For the first time in more than 20 years, property taxes in Edmonton are not going up.

City council completed budget deliberations on Friday and approved the freeze for 2021.

"I'm pleased to say that today, city council passed a budget that strikes the right balance between finding efficiencies during these trying economic times while also ensuring that we're supporting economic recovery and protecting key city services and infrastructure," Mayor Don Iveson said.

The city has been dealing with major budget constraints because of the COVID-19 pandemic and approved $57.4 million in budget reductions.

“We’re not going to make everybody happy with this budget, but we did it to the best of our ability,” said Ward 2 Councillor Bev Esslinger.

The cuts include layoffs, but most of the approximately 300 jobs being eliminated will be positions that are already vacant.

“I want to acknowledge that this isn’t a good news budget, and that’s its going to be specifically bad news for some people,” said Ward 5 Councillor Sarah Hamilton.

Council voted to continue funding the Eastglen Leisure Centre, the Scona and Oliver Pools and the Tipton and Oliver arenas on Wednesday, despite potential cost savings of $1.2 million.

Planned funding for transit service hours, the city's spay and neuter program and Community Investment Operating Grants will also be maintained.

This is the first time since 1997 that taxes have not increased.

The city will continue to look for efficiencies to save money over the longer term.

“Just a lot of nips and tucks and optimizations, most of which, the public likely won’t see,” said Iveson.

"This work will be critical to how the city adapts to the new normal and emerges hopefully stronger than before."  

In July, the city estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic could cost the city between $200 and $360 million over the next two years, and Iveson suggested that it would be unlikely that the city could approve a budget freeze in 2022.

“I would suggest that we’re getting at the limits of what you can do there without fundamentally affecting service levels.”