Edmonton property taxes to rise by 5.7 per cent
Tax relief not likely until province helps pay for growth, says mayor
Some programs and services added to the 2015 operating budget:
- Green Shack Program
- REACH Edmonton
- Peak Period Transit Service
- Late Night bus Service
- New fire prevention training officers
- New police officers
City councillors approved a 5.7 per cent tax increase on Thursday, the highest increase Edmonton has seen in five years.
Over the past two weeks' budget deliberations, councillors took on $484 million in new tax-supported debt and increased taxes to make up for what they call 'an infrastructure deficit.'
In total, they approved $6.2 billion in capital spending for things like roads, recreation centres, transit infrastructure and a controversial new helicopter for police.
Council also increased funds for programs and services to compensate for the rapid growth of the city, including money for more police officers and snow removal.
One point five per cent of this year's tax increase will go towards neighbourhood renewal.
“We’re paying for things that people have asked for,” Coun. Michael Walters said in defence of the spending before the final vote.
Coun. Bev Esslinger said she will also be able to defend the tax increase to her constituents.
“Like most Edmontonians I would have preferred a lower property tax, but we are building a city,” Esslinger said.
Coun. Bryan Anderson supported the budget, but said the tax increases can't continue
"I think we need to ... really seriously consider how we can do less damage to a considerable number of people in our city," Anderson said.
According to Anderson, taxes have gone up 10.6 per cent under the new council.
Tax increases could continue for years
Mayor Don Iveson said unless something changes, Edmontonians could see major tax increases in the years to come.
“The cost-drivers aren't going to change, the game needs to change,” Iveson said. “The way that the game, or the fiscal framework, changes is through something significant in a city charter."
A city charter would allow council to get money from the province, not just the property tax – but negotiations between Alberta’s two major cities and the province could take years.
In the meantime, Iveson has pressured the province over the course of budget talks to pitch in to pay for the massive growth the city has experienced over the last several years, especially when it comes to policing.