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City council passes revised budget, Edmonton homeowners will see 2.08% property tax increase

Budget deliberations wrap up at Edmonton City Hall
WATCH ABOVE: The final number is in when it comes to the property tax hike for 2020, and it will be lower than first though. Vinesh Pratap has the latest from Edmonton City Hall.

Edmonton city council has passed a revised budget for 2020 that brings with it a 2.08 per cent property tax increase.

For a home worth $400,000, the tax increase amounts to $51 for the year. That’s compared to $67 when the target was 2.6 per cent.

Coun. Michael Walter and Coun. Mike Nickel voted against the operating budget.

“I’d said all along we had what it took to get to zero per cent,” Walter said. “I didn’t think we went quite far enough. I don’t vote against it angrily, I voted against it as a commitment that I made to try to get to zero, and we didn’t get there.

“We did take a lot of spending off the table [and] we found savings here and there, so overall, it’s not a bad spot to be in.”

In a series of votes on Friday, city council agreed to spend selectively on major construction projects, while holding off on others.

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A key element that was expected to be introduced for the first time in 2020 was money for back alley renewal.

A specific line item was being introduced to begin funding the program, however, Jason Meliefste, the acting deputy city manager for integrated infrastructure services, told council that the city won’t be able to do as much work as first anticipated for the program, so not as much money will be collected at the outset.

“I’m moving this motion to reduce a program that I fought to get in,” Coun. Tony Caterina said. “So take that for what it’s worth, that I believe it’s not necessary for 2020 and we are sending out the right signals that we are prepared to drop from the 2.6 (per cent) that we started at.”

Changes to staffing levels are being made as well — but no layoffs — as the city considered some information in private.

“A number of vacant positions that had been vacant for an extended period of time will be removed,” Coun. Andrew Knack said about the $1.6 million in savings.

“To me, this budget represents restraint and not austerity​,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

City councillors had to find $28 million in cuts to match reductions from the provincial government.

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“For me, I think anything more would have really severely impacted services that are deeply important to people,” Coun. Ben Henderson said.

Iveson said the property tax increase agreed to by council on Friday amounted to the lowest “we’ve seen in more than two decades.”

“It represents basically, more or less, an inflationary adjustment,” the mayor said. “I think it includes the absorption of significant impacts of provincial downloading.

“We could have moved into layoffs [and] we could have put more projects on hold then lost the opportunity to stimulate growth, but I think council wanted to send a message of confidence in our city.”

READ MORE: Edmonton city council agrees to push back construction of Lewis Farms rec centre

Council votes to defer plans to build west Edmonton rec centre
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City council votes to spend money on widening Terwillegar Drive

Two major projects were approved by city council on Friday morning, as councillors entered their third day of budget deliberations.

They agreed to spend $103 million on widening Terwillegar Drive. However, what will be done won’t be as elaborate as first proposed. Instead of doing intersection work all the way south to Anthony Henday Drive for over $300 million, planners will concentrate on the north portion of Terwillegar.

Meliefste told council the new plan will couple this job with rehabilition work on Whitemud Drive.

“[It will] allow us the opportunity to make sure that the work that’s happening on the bridge coincides with the work that’s happening on the Whitemud,” he said.
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Coun. Tim Cartmell said Edmontonians can expect both projects to happen sometime between 2023 and 2026, as more lanes — both for private vehicles and isolated lanes for transit — will link up with the Whitemud.

“What will be the early part of the Terwillegar Drive improvements will be the additional lanes and the improved intersections at 40 Avenue and then Rabbit Hill Road, and then that will be ready when they do the interchange work,” Meliefste said. “So we’ll have a very smooth running, operating interchange and the ability to get buses and vehicles to the south half of that road.

“That bridge is one of the next ones that gets fixed, like Groat is now. It’s one of the next ones that will be built, so we get two items with one [investment]. We get economies of scale by combining the projects.”

The vote was unanimous, however, Coun. Aaron Paquette said he only voted for the plan because of the transit portion of it. He said he is not a fan of road widening.

“More car lanes will not reduce congestion,” he said.

“On these major thoroughfares, all it does is encourage more people to take that route than it did before.”

Council also voted to spend $30 million to redo Stadium Station along the oldest LRT line in the city.

“After 40-some-odd years, to get any kind of improvement to the Stadium Station is absolute heaven,” Caterina beamed.

The work will improve safety, eliminating the need for train passengers to go upstairs and downstairs from Commonwealth Stadium to reach the platform.

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Caterina said the improved station is also kickstarting residential development in the immediate area.

“There’s over $50 million from the developer that’s already been sunk into that area to move forward, all based on renewal of that particular station.”

READ MORE: Edmonton budget talks Day 1: West LRT funding, Lewis Farms rec centre postponement debated

2020 budget deliberations put Edmonton projects under microscope
2020 budget deliberations put Edmonton projects under microscope

With some decisions put off until the spring, that will impact future numbers. Council was told that based on what was decided on over the last few weeks, the tax increases for the other two years will be 2.59 per cent in 2021, and 2.32 per cent in 2022.