September 7, 2018 6:36 pm

Edmonton city councillor calls for budget cuts, but wants them listed first

A photo of Edmonton City Council taken on July 9, 2018.

Global News

Edmonton city councillor Andrew Knack has asked the $64 million question.

“We should reduce spending! Well of course we should. How are we going to do it?”

And well before city council begins reviewing the four-year operating budget in October, Edmontonians will have the answer to what it’ll mean if city staff cut $64 million worth of services.

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Knack closed Friday’s council meeting by getting the ball rolling on what will be list of things the city does, that maybe residents can live with out. The list would be made up of “possible services that can be reduced, changed or eliminated in order to further reduce any proposed tax increase.”

His request ranges from a one per cent tax increase worth $16.1 million, all the way up to four per cent and over $64.4 million worth.

READ MORE: An Edmonton City Council clash is coming on debt as other money dries up

Knack concedes Edmontonians might not like the answer.

“I think you’re going to see genuine tough recommendations,” he said. “Things that will legitimately be, I think, tough for people to maybe fully support.”

He’s talking real service reductions. Not things we’ve heard in the past like less flower planters in the downtown, or reduced lawn maintenance, or elimination of early morning hours of swimming.

There’s even a term among city staffers they’ve dubbed “Barney the Bear” that dates back decades to eliminating a one-time Edmonton Police Service mascot.

“We should debate each of those items, make sure they’re known to the public in advance so they can also provide feedback,” Knack said. “So that’s why I wanted to get this list out in front as early as possible.”

READ MORE: Edmonton’s 4-year budget described as ‘tight’ as council begins deliberations

The tough recommendations will likely include hardships that can affect vulnerable people where the city is filling in funding gaps the other orders of government should, but don’t provide.

“If at the end everyone says ‘I’d rather keep all of this,’ then we also know that. That’s good feedback,” Knack said. “If everyone comes back and we hear a huge outcry and saying ‘don’t cut anything on that list’ then what ever the final number is, I think you’ll understand that there’s a general acceptance of that if we all know what it would ultimately mean.”

Knack said old efforts where city council has wrapped up the debate and then asked administration to cut an additional two per cent, with out giving specifics as “disingenuous.”

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