Council given starting point on the next four-year budget at 2%

An Edmonton group wants drug users to get out of back alleys and into safe injection sites when using, Tuesday, April 5, 2016.
An Edmonton group wants drug users to get out of back alleys and into safe injection sites when using, Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

A preliminary budget forecast was released Friday with a starting point of a two per cent tax increase. That’s based on three items that council has already locked in.

Police will get a one per cent increase, LRT a 0.6 per cent increase in 2019 and 2020, which will be reduced to 0.3 percent the following two years, while back alley work will get a 0.3 per cent increase over each of the next four years.

The report goes to Tuesday’s council meeting where it’s expected there will be some discussion on the progress of a complete review of city operations.

READ MORE: Chamber is working on showing city council ways to reduce costs

While the three line items are set in stone, Councillor Andrew Knack said they can still work their way down from the two per cent mark.

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“We’ve already agreed to the police [increase], that’s not going to change. The alleys, I felt was a priority and something we’ve been talking about for years now, so I fully support that. The LRT needs to be there,” Knack said.

“So the question would be, not having seen everything, do they have built into that — what’s happening with the program and service level review? I’m guessing not yet since we’re only six months into this year, so how much does the program and service level review help us find savings in other areas?”

The program and service level review is well underway, with the assistance of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. Knack is confident cost savings will be found, because moreso than previous years, the pushback from business and groups like Prosperity Edmonton are significant.

“It’s become a wider amount of businesses that have said that, and also I’ve heard a lot from seniors who are just feeling really stretched thin.”

READ MORE: Edmonton 2018 tax notices in the mail

“I think inflation is a realistic target,” Knack said reiterating what was a campaign pledge.

“Because the neighborhood renewal is coming off, because of the program and service review, I didn’t feel that was an unreasonable target that would sacrifice the basic infrastructure of the city.”

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For the past ten years Edmonton residents have had a line item in their tax bill for neighborhood renewal that was often 1.5 per cent of the tax increase.

The chamber has been critical of the city, because from 2006 to 2016 inflation and population growth has been up by 50 percent, yet spending increases are double that.

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