Edmonton

Property tax could rise 18 per cent over next 3 years

Property taxpayers could face an 18 per cent tax increase over the next three years, according to early financial forecasts by city staff.

Council will try to limit estimated tax increases, Mayor Don Iveson says

Some city councillors say an 18 per cent tax increase is too much to swallow for taxpayers. (CBC)

Property taxpayers could face an 18 per cent tax increase over the next three years, according to early financial forecasts by city staff.

According to a report that went before councillors on Tuesday, the cost of finishing the Valley LRT Line and neighbourhood renewal are major factors that could drive up taxes by as much as six per cent per year.

Several councillors suggested taxpayers may be reaching their breaking point, and it may be time to scale back operations to ease their burden.

"Times are going to get a little tight and maybe belts will have to get a little tight," said Coun. Mike Nickel.

He said according to his calculations, property owners are now paying 60.7 per cent more than they were in 2005.

"That leads to concerns about capacity for taxpayers to pay," Nickel said.

City taxes jumped 2.1 per cent for 2015, 5.7 per cent in 2014.

Coun. Michael Oshry suggested council may have to cut old programs to create some savings.

"It's just not feasible to keep going, especially in the economic situation that we have now," he said, 

Mayor Don Iveson said he understands the "visceral reaction" from the public to the estimated tax increases.

However the revenue estimates presented to council are conservative, he said, so the tax increase may not be so high.

Iveson said council will work hard to drive the number down during budget deliberations in the fall, but added there has been a lot of public support for the projects responsible for the increase. 

He said tax hikes are the cost of doing business to improve transit and city streets. 

Meanwhile, Coun. Ben Henderson reminded his council colleagues that the neighbourhood renewal program and the LRT expenses will eventually come to an end, which means taxpayers may get a break in a few years.

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