Edmonton city council approves 5% property tax hike next year

Property owners in Edmonton can expect to pay about five per cent more in tax in each of the next four years after city council approved the 2023-26 operating and capital budgets Friday. 

Capital budget approved 9-4; operating budget approved 8-5

Edmonton city council approves capital budget in 9-4 vote and operating budget 8-5. (Natasha Riebe/CBC)

Property owners in Edmonton can expect to pay about five per cent more in taxes in each of the next four years after city council approved the 2023-26 operating and capital budgets Friday.

Administration had proposed a 3.9 per cent property tax increase when it presented the operating budget in mid-November.

Amendments to the capital and operating budgets over the past week added to the tax levy. 

Council voted 9-4 in favour of the $7.9-billion capital budget. Those voting against included Tim Cartmell, Sarah Hamilton, Jennifer Rice and Karen Principe.

The operating budget passed 8-5 with Cartmell, Hamilton, Rice, Principe and Andrew Knack voting against it.

The operating budget for 2023 is $3.29 billion. As approved, it will be $3.34 billion in 2024, $3.48 billion in 2025 and $3.56 billion in 2026. 

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the budgets help create a more affordable city for lower-income residents by freezing users fees for recreation centres and increasing on-demand public transit and off-peak transit service. 

He also lauded council's decision to invest in the bike lane implementation. 

"I wish we were at a lower rate," Sohi told reporters after the vote. "But we worked hard and we tried to balance the needs of keeping services affordable."

Coun. Aaron Paquette noted that tax increases in the past few years were low and can change as council adjusts the budgets twice a year.

"When it comes to mowing, there's another opportunity in the spring to change the budget," Paquette said. 

"Budgets are fluid. There's a continuum." 

It translates to a 4.96 per cent tax increase in 2023 and 2024, 4.95 per cent in 2025 and 4.39 per cent in 2026.

The owner of a typical household can expect to pay about $725 in 2023 for every $100,000 of assessed home value, an increase of $34 from 2022, the city says. 

Divisive vote on transit

Knack, who's been on council for nine years, was emotional during closing comments Friday morning. 

"I never had such a hard time with my comments during budget because I know approving budget increases is hard, even when it's smaller," Knack said. "And for the first time, I was entering this debate very split specifically in regards to the operating budget."

One of the most divisive votes was Wednesday night, when council voted 8-5 against funding Edmonton's portion of a regional transit system — a plan that's been in the works for eight years. 

Knack was a councillor representative on the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Services Commission and voted to support the $13-million a year regional service. 

Cartmell said he was voting against the budgets in part because of the decision to withdraw from the regional transit plan.

"Make no mistake, trust has been lost," Cartmell told council. "We've lost the trust of our collective communities around us." 

Coun. Sarah Hamilton said in her five years as a councillor, she's never voted against a budget.

"I'm afraid with our decision to leave the transit commission this week, we have set a dangerous precedent that Edmonton will be proceeding alone," she said, calling the move "the death of regionalism." 

This week, council had proposed and debated over 100 amendments to the operating budget, including a 36-part omnibus amendment. 

Climate action

Administration had not included funding for several climate action projects, which council introduced and passed in the amendment process. 

Those include $53 million for energy retrofits of city facilities, $34.5 million to develop district energy networks and $11.2 million toward an emissions-neutral fleet of vehicles.

Coun. Ashley Salvador said she was proud of what council accomplished. 

"We have had hard discussions, there have been hard decisions -- very hard decisions and compromise," Salvador said. "In this budget, I see that we are a city that takes climate action seriously."


Natasha Riebe


Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.