$35M budget shortfall may force new cuts, closures and fees
Edmonton city councillors debated measures such as cuts to recreation centre operating hours, the closure of the Scona Pool and new parking fees at LRT parking lots on Wednesday to deal with a projected $35-million drop in revenues.
In a report released Tuesday, city staff made about 40 recommendations on how to deal with the shortfall.
However, Mayor Stephen Mandel said he wanted to go further and trim the city's bureaucracy.
"There's lots of fat in this organization," Mandel told reporters during a break.
"Question I'll ask when I come back: Why don't we flatten our organization? It's a very hierarchal organization with four or five or six levels of management. Get rid of some of those.
"There's lots of ways we could do things in a more efficient way," Mandel said. "We don't want to tackle those. Those are tough decisions."
The debate on the recommendations was expected to continue into the evening.
"I really don't know what council is going to decide," Coun. Kim Krushell said.
"Obviously you can see that council is struggling with it. Nobody likes to make tough decisions — where we're increasing parking fees and where we're shutting down a pool — so council is asking a lot more questions and we're debating the issue more because it's not easy."
Some of the measures identified in the report include:
- Charging fees for the first time at LRT parking lots, increasing revenue by $440,000 this year.
- Increasing evening parking rates at the library and Canada Place parkades to $5 from $3, which would result in an estimated $225,000 increase in revenue.
- Retiring the city's aging fleet of trolley buses this month instead of waiting until 2010, for a one-time cost saving of $50,000 and $356,000 savings in ongoing costs.
- Reducing hours at recreational centres by five per cent ($160,000 in savings).
- Eliminating the social marketing campaign to encourage people to reduce the use of pesticides. ($40,000 in savings.)
- Closing a pool in June — the Scona Pool was identified in discussions on Wednesday — worth $80,000 in savings.
- Eliminating a paper version of the city's EcoVision annual report and only making it available online to save on distribution costs. ($30,000 in savings.)