I campaigned on a city building agenda. I want to invest strategically in maintaining and enhancing the $40 billion dollars of assets owned by the city. I want to fix crumbling neighbourhoods as quickly as possible. I want to invest in a modern progressive city that continues to attract the brightest people from around the world, not just because they can find a job here, but because this is a great city with great neighbourhoods in which to raise a family.
But I also campaigned on sound financial management.
In a year where our economy has clearly slowed with some 15,000 Edmontonians having lost their jobs (more will next year too) we need to work extra hard to avoid adding an extra burden on families through additional property tax increases. It is also important to note that non residential assessment on our local businesses, many of which provide the vibrancy our city and neighbourhoods enjoy is three times that of residential taxpayers. We have to be very mindful of this.
Even with a slowing economy Edmonton is still growing. It’s not possible to deliver the services citizens expect with no increase to property taxes over the next three years. We tried that for a few years in the 1990’s, and we are still catching up on basic maintenance of our infrastructure 20+ years later.
That being said, an almost 15% increase in your property taxes over the next three years is simply not acceptable, and during the budget deliberations, I will be looking at efficiencies in our services as well as a reallocation of funds to reduce the increase in property taxes and bring them down to a much more manageable number.
This month I will be writing about my approach to this year’s budget and where I think we can find savings for property tax payers by using provincial grant money for things like neighbourhood renewal and policing costs. I will also be exploring the issues council should be focused on and how losing focus leads to wasted time and resources.
I will dive deeper into important factors that drive up operating costs and tax increases, such as the Edmonton’s low density, inefficient urban form and the effect this has on your tax bill.
I am interested in your view on the budget and look forward to discussing it with as many of you as possible in the coming weeks.
You can read the 2016-18 operating budget here and please email me with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.