Members of Edmonton’s business community are raising what they call “deep concerns” with the city budget, the big projects being approved and the increasing taxes to pay for them.
The president of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce says the group asked city council to consider reining in spending and do its best to keep taxes low.
“Council was asked to consider refining priorities, allowing for flexibility, focusing on what cities do best, keeping taxes low and maximizing return on investment,” Jeffrey Sunquist said.
“This budget does not contain a clear list of priorities for our city. The motions passed thus far scatter priorities and are not related to the core mandate of municipalities.”
In a joint statement Tuesday, the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, NAIOP Edmonton, BOMA Edmonton and Urban Development Institute – Edmonton Metro said they are worried about the current budget deliberations, which so far include the approval of several multi-million-dollar projects like:
- $100 million in funding for new bike lanes;
- More than $34 million for an expanded district energy system;
- $35 million to demolish the Coliseum;
- $53 million in climate resilient city facility upgrades;
- $11.2 million in emissions-neutral city fleet and equipment
Sunquist said the group is concerned that heading into the operating budget there won’t be much opportunity to find savings. The group is concerned that the spending will be paid for through property tax increases, “already pegged at $49 million as of Monday evening with four more days of debate and spending decisions to go.”
The starting point of this budget saw a 3.9 per cent tax increase every year for four years. There’s been increased spending in the capital budget. So, unless there are cuts in the operating budget, that 3.9 per cent figure is likely to rise even higher.
The business groups are asking citizens to get engaged and contact their city councillor and mayor.
“Inflation is affecting all Edmontonians, while the broader economy is still struggling with an uncertain pandemic recovery,” the group statement reads.
“While it is understandable that a property tax increase after several years of restraint during the pandemic may be needed, most families and businesses are still rationalizing spending, and ask this council to empathize.
“In a city published survey earlier this year, 73 per cent of the public stated they were uncomfortable with property tax increases,” it continues.
“In September, an independent survey by Leger found that Edmontonians felt city council’s top three priorities should be lowering taxes, improving roads, and reducing spending.”
Council is expected to wrap up budget deliberations by the end of the week.