Edmonton

Edmonton city council approves 2.6-per-cent property tax hike

Edmonton city council passed the 2019-22 operating and capital budgets Friday after weeks of debate.

Owner of typical Edmonton home to pay $65 more in 2019

Edmonton city council passed the four-year operating and capital budgets Friday. (Natasha Riebe/CBC)

Property owners in Edmonton can expect a 2.6-per-cent tax increase in each of the next four years after city council passed the 2019-22 operating budget Friday.

The owner of a typical Edmonton home valued at $397,000 will pay $2,526 in property taxes in 2019, an increase of $65 over 2018, the city said in a news release.

The operating budget, about $3 billion per year over the four-year period, was approved by a vote of 11-2. Coun. Mike Nickel and Coun. Jon Dziadyk voted against it, saying there should be no tax increase.

This is business 101 sort of stuff- Coun. Mike Nickel

When the budget was proposed by city administration in November, it called for a 3.3-per-cent tax hike.

Council also approved the $4.8-billion four-year capital budget, by a vote of 12-1. Nickel was alone in voting against it. 

Mayor Don Iveson said the tax increase is needed to help the city catch up from the 1990s when infrastructure needs were neglected.

"The city was falling apart and costs skyrocketed and we were playing catch-up on pot holes and aging infrastructure," he said. "That's what drove the tax increase over the last ten years."

Nickel said he believes the city can find ways to save money instead of asking property owners to pay. He also said tax increases over the past ten years are out of hand. 

"People have come to me and said 'we're broken, the city's broke'."

Nickel has suggested cost-saving strategies, like paying contractors and engineers a little less for their services. 

"This is business 101 sort of stuff. First thing you do when you have a tough budget is you go back to your vendors and everybody takes a haircut," he said.  
Coun. Mike Nickel voted against adopting the operating and capital budgets for 2019-2022. (Peter Evans/CBC)

The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce responded swiftly to the budget approval, calling the tax burden on business "unreasonable." 

Janet Riopel, president and CEO, said further tax increases are causing Edmonton to lose its competitiveness.

"It is deeply disappointing that despite all the positive feedback and various cost savings put forward, council actually raised the proposed tax increase on struggling businesses in Edmonton."

The chamber also pointed out that the 2.6 per cent hike actually adds up to 10.8 per cent over the four years — higher than the 10.5 per cent proposed by city administration in November. 

In addition to the tax hike, residents are also asked to pay more for waste services. The rate is going up 2.5 per cent annually over the next four years. That's about $1.15 per more a month for single-unit residence, amounting to $47.08.

The budget includes some big projects, like the Valley Line LRT, turning the Yellowhead highway into a freeway and developing Blatchford on the former municipal airport lands. 

 Also included is $16 million for the Coronation Community Recreation Centre and $27.5 million to upgrade the Stadium LRT Station.

Council also agreed to take on $112 million in debt to turn Terwillegar Drive into an expressway.

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