$28M needed to keep tax increase at 2.6 per cent, Edmonton report says


Edmonton city council will embark on intense budget deliberations starting Thursday, guided by a new report that outlines ways to recoup more than $28 million in lost revenue for 2020.

The report, released Friday, shows that's the amount needed to keep the property tax increase at the planned 2.6 per cent. 

Maintaining the same operating budget would see the tax increase go up to 4.3 per cent in 2020, the report from the financial and corporate services department shows. 

The city faces tough choices after the province cut the equivalent of $26 million in operating dollars expected to come through grants and traffic fine revenues.

The city faces another $2.5-million shortage from its own community and recreation facilities. 

After the provincial budget was released in October, Coun. Michael Walters asked administration to calculate what it would take to reach a zero per cent tax increase in 2020.

The report shows the city would have to find over $70 million in savings to get to zero — an additional $44.1 million above the $28.5 million needed to maintain the planned increase. 

"The next few years are going to be a hard look in the mirror in terms of what kind of city are we building? What are our priorities?" Walters told CBC News Friday. "How do we use existing dollars to fund new priorities as opposed to new dollars?"

Security, parking, census in question

The finance department has found about $16 million in potential savings in operating services and programs toward holding the tax increase at 2.6 per cent. 

These appear in a range of departments, including fire rescue services, finance, transit, parks and roads,  and parking.  

The city estimates it could save $1.1 million by adjusting the privately-contracted security guards at bus and LRT stations "to better align with hours of operation and areas of high need based on security incident data," and by removing security from three locations. 

Expanding EPark zones in Old Strathcona and recovering curbside parking revenue from Oilers Entertainment Group lost during Rogers Place events would save an estimated $200,000.

Reassigning City of Edmonton parking from private to city-owned facilities could help raise $750,000. 

If the city stopped holding its municipal census every two years and relied on the federal census, the city clerk's office could save $1.6 million. 

Other small cuts could be made, such as reducing the opening hours at recreation and sports centres to save $400,000 in 2020.