An updated budget report released Friday afternoon for Edmonton councillors explains in detail the $26-million shortfall they’re facing and will have to find savings for in order to keep next year’s property tax increase at 2.6 per cent.
It comes just days before they’ll begin 2020 budget deliberations. Not only do they want to keep the tax increase at the level that was set a year ago, but for some councillors, it’s a chance to bring next year’s tax increase right down to zero.
That would require finding more than another $44.1 million in reductions.
One large hole in the budget is due to the provincial government keeping $7 million in photo radar and other ticket revenue. That money usually goes to local construction projects like new crosswalks that the city will now have to do without.
The report recommends holding off on upgrades to the back alley program, still hoping to play catch up on the rehab work.
“If the 2020 funding of $6.8 million is deferred until 2023, the alley renewal program will adjust to more moderately ramp up the amount of alleys being completed through 2022 to accommodate the reduced budget,” the report said. “If still fully funded by 2023, the long-term targets of the program should still be achieved.”
A 0.4 per cent tax increase is already baked into the 2.6 per cent hike for alley work. The report recommends the planned 2020 tax hike not happen.
Other pre-determined increases include one per cent for police, 0.6 per cent for the Valley Line LRT to Mill Woods and 0.9 per cent for inflation on the existing budget.
Most of the remaining $16.5-million gap is proposed to be made up by smarter spending and employment reductions worth $10.8 million by not filling vacant positions or even offering “furlough days” or, as it’s better known, unpaid vacations.
Service reductions worth $7.2 million are proposed. Reduction strategies include closure of under-performing facilities, reduction in grass cutting, while the fire department would hold off for a couple of years adding a planned tanker crew and ladder crew, as well as a second HazMat team for the southern half of the city.
Options to Further Reduce 2020 Operating Budget by Emily Mertz on Scribd
Changes to services provided by 311 are also being considered.
If the city stays with the status quo, which is not in the plans, the report said you’d see “estimated tax increases of 4.3 per cent in 2020, 2.9 per cent in 2021 and 2.7 per cent in 2022 compared to the currently approved tax increases of 2.6 per cent in each of 2020, 2021 and 2022.”
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On the capital side of the budget, city council will have to do without $183.4 million through 2022 on city construction projects. However, council will look at some new strategies to keep some projects alive.
“Based on a review of the 2019-2022 renewal budget, administration identified $65 million in project expenditures that could be delivered within the next budget cycle,” the report said. “However, administration is recommending $27.5 million in expenditures be re-cash flowed to the next budget cycle,” which would run from 2023 to 2027.
READ MORE: Alberta Budget 2019: What’s in it for Edmonton?
The electric buses that are on order are still in there. How to pay for them, though, has changed. Money that was supposed to go to diesel buses is gone, so that means it’s up in the air how many new electric buses will be able to be bought.
New electric buses on the way to Edmonton
The upgrade to Terwillegar drive is also still alive but not as originally planned, and suggestions are being made to alter the construction plan, dropping the widening of the expressway south of Rabbit Hill Road, and redirecting that money to the widening of the Rainbow Valley Bridge.
READ MORE: Edmonton police budget at razor-thin tipping point after cuts
Lewis Estates rec centre is still on the books however there are some financial gymnastics involved with debt-servicing costs that could see the project deferred. Coun. Andrew Knack, in a text to Global News, said he anticipates that deferral will happen.
Final design for Lewis Farms rec centre revealed Tuesday
Council begins debate next Thursday with a public hearing at 1:30 p.m., followed by program reviews on Wednesday, Dec. 11.
City of Edmonton administration – budget 2020 options by Emily Mertz on Scribd
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