Edmonton projecting $67.8M budget surplus for 2022

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Edmonton projecting $67.8M budget surplus for 2022
The City of Edmonton is anticipating a $67.8-million surplus by the end of 2022 and councillors are weighing in on what they would like done with the money. Sarah Komadina reports. – Nov 25, 2022

The City of Edmonton is anticipating a $67.8-million surplus by the end of this year, and councillors are weighing in on what they would like done with the money.

According to the city’s operating financial update release Thursday, tax-supported operations show a surplus of approximately $45.3 million as of Sept. 30. The year-end projected results estimate a surplus of $67.8 million.

Part of the anticipated surplus is leftover from this year’s budget, with savings coming from unfilled job vacancies, delayed grant payments and favourable transit fare revenues.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said his goal is to use the additional funds to build more affordable housing, take “bold climate action” and expand the industrial tax base.

“I aim to tap into the city’s smart use of funds to make sure your top priorities are funded,” Sohi said on social media Thursday.

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pihêsiwin councillor Tim Cartmell said when it comes to what to do with the surplus, it’s a balancing act.

“Interest rates went up,” he said. “Our savings — we gained more money because of it. But on the other side of the ledger, what we’re going to talk about over the next three weeks are a number of projects, a number of initiatives that require more money to support.

“If we borrow more money, that money is more expensive. Loan costs are going up.”

Cartmell stressed the city can’t get too carried away, but added the money will be put to use one way or another.

“If you find yourself with more money in your bank account at the end of the year than you had, that doesn’t mean necessarily that you’re going to Disney World,” he said. “That means you have to think about how much more money you’re going to spend on groceries next year.

“You don’t necessarily go and take out a mortgage payment that’s going to cost you money every year for 25 years after that.”

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Cartmell suggested the one-time money may be best used on one-time projects.

“We have to be careful,” he said. “One of those things might be one-time investments in housing. We talked about that a couple of days ago — the West Jasper Place shelter funding for six months. That would be a one-time thing.

“Investing in housing that’s talked about in the capital budget means an investment over several years. In the operating budget, it’s an investment every year, ongoing, in a sense.

“Maybe it could find its way to housing, but it could only find its way to one-time, single opportunity housing initiatives.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton city councillors face a tough four-year budget'
Edmonton city councillors face a tough four-year budget

Karhiio councillor Keren Tang said for the past few weeks, she and her council colleagues have been looking at the upcoming budget, at unfunded projects and at emails coming in from residents to see what priorities should be top of mind.

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“How do you split that among these top priorities is the question. The housing priority, for example, the $91 million that’s required to go into our affordable housing investment program — this only gets us so far. But there’s so many other things,” she said.

“In the grand scheme of things in a $3.2-billion budget, it’s a bit of a drop in the bucket. But it still helps. I don’t want to negate that.”

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Tang said she would like to see the city consider carrying on with some of the fiscal strategies that got it the surplus in the first place.

“We can’t let our guards down in terms of continuing to be really fiscally prudent.”

The city begins budget deliberations next week.

Right now, the city is proposing a 3.9 per cent increase in taxes each year for the next four years.

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