“What were the results of the survey on taxes?” (updated Dec. 1)
The City ran an online survey between November 17 and November 24 to get Edmontonians’ perspectives on taxation levels and service expectations. The results were shared with City Council to support their budget deliberations. The City took a similar approach last year.
The online survey received over 8,600 responses from people across various demographic groups and across all 12 wards. This survey is one of many factors that Council will consider in their budget discussions. A public hearing was also held on November 30, and more than 40 presentations were made.
The survey asked whether the tax levy should go up or down or stay the same.
The survey showed 42 per cent of Edmontonians favoured keeping the tax levy at the current amount, 34 per cent supported a tax levy increase and 18 per cent wanted a decrease.
Those who favoured a tax levy increase said the focus should be on covering the increased costs to maintain current levels of programs and services in parks, transit and road operations, and to stay on top of infrastructure maintenance.
Respondents who favoured the status quo or a decrease in the tax levy said they would look to prioritize recreation centres, parks and transit for reductions in funding.
The majority of survey respondents were residential property owners. The respondents who owned a commercial property or business were more likely to favour maintaining the tax levy at 2021 levels.
While there are signs that Edmonton’s economy is starting to improve, respondents said their financial situation has changed only slightly since 2020. There was a decrease in the number of those whose situation stayed the same compared to 2020, and an increase in those whose situation has become worse. 83 per cent of respondents said the pandemic has negatively impacted their finances.
You can read the full results in this PDF.
Published on November 26, 2021:
It’s Budget Season at City Hall, the annual public celebration of municipal democracy. No, really. No order of government opens the doors and binders quite the way cities do at this time of year.
“The budget is about putting Edmontonians’ money to work,” said Stacey Padbury, Chief Financial Officer and Deputy City Manager of Financial and Corporate Services.
“Every fall, Council is making decisions that impact the City’s $3 billion operating budget. The operating budget impacts the life of every Edmontonian, so we take our job as City Administration very seriously. It’s our job to help Council with the budget by answering questions, advising, and offering history and context, including what we’re hearing from Edmontonians.”
A fine balance
This year’s budget discussions happen against a backdrop of the continued financial effects of COVID-19. The virus has affected just about everything about life in Edmonton. The City’s bottom line is no exception.
It’s been an even tricker balancing act than usual.
The City has lost unexpected millions of dollars in revenue keeping Edmontonians safe from COVID, while, at the same time, spending money on programs and services that people count on—putting out fires and keeping Edmontonians safe, running parks, keeping recreation centres going when safe, policing, collecting waste, clearing snow and keeping buses and LRT running. The City also found ways to keep building Edmonton—safely—including the Groat Road Bridge rehabilitation and the Valley Line Southeast LRT.
The City has tried to accomplish this while keeping property taxes manageable, especially when many Edmontonians have been feeling the financial pain of the pandemic.
Balancing has a cost. The City and City Council had to make some hard decisions when updating the budgets for 2020 and 2021. The 2022 budget will be no different.
Budget deliberations happen at City Hall. Your elected City Councillors look at how Administration recommends your money be spent next year, which is the fourth and final year of the current 2019-2022 operating and capital budget cycle.
Budget season is the season for numbers and graphs and questions. The City wants to hear from you, and recently asked for questions about the 2022 budget on social media. Here are some of those questions and answers.
“Why is the City proposing a 1.8 per cent tax increase? What is the increase paying for?”
Times are still tough for many Edmontonians.
The City has worked to find a balance between keeping property taxes manageable (and lower than inflation) while also offering excellent services and continuing to move infrastructure plans forward, all while responding to and recovering from a pandemic.
The proposed 1.8 per cent property tax increase would cover costs for key projects such as the Valley Line LRT (0.1 per cent) and alley renewal (0.3 per cent). Other increases are slated for the Edmonton Police Service (0.7 per cent) and City services in general (0.7 per cent).
Ultimately, it’s up to City Council to decide on the proposed budget, and how much the City will need to collect in property taxes to help fund it.
Budget deliberations will carry over into December and will likely wrap up mid-month.
“What would this proposed increase mean for my property tax bill?”
For the average Edmonton homeowner, the proposed increase would mean annual property taxes may go up by about $14 per $100,000 of assessed value—or around $50 for the median single-family home.
This assumes that the value of your property value will change in line with the overall market. If your 2022 property assessment goes up or down relative to the overall market, your tax bill may grow or fall by a few dollars.
Property assessments will be mailed out in mid-January.
To find out more about property taxes, visit edmonton.ca/taxes.
“How do I find out what a service/project costs?”
Pie charts help.
The chart below shows the proposed operating budget—the programs and services the City spends its money on—for 2022. For instance, it shows that 15 per cent of proposed expenditures would fund community services and attractions, things like the Valley Zoo and the Edmonton Public Library. Public transit covers just over 13 per cent, and Edmonton Fire Rescue Services just over 7 per cent of the total money to be spent.
The exact proportions may change a bit once City Council has approved the operating and capital budget updates for 2022.
The total 2022 operating budget is just under $3.1 billion.
The second chart is for the 2019-2022 capital budget, which covers the past four years of infrastructure construction and purchasing. Capital spending includes items such as new roads, new buildings and major building maintenance, LRT construction and new vehicles for ETS. Capital purchases are funded partially by property taxes, but primarily by investment income and grants from other orders of government.
Deep-dive into the proposed updates for 2022 by reading the Fall 2021 Supplemental Operating Budget Adjustment report and the Fall 2021 Supplemental Capital Budget Adjustment report.
“Why is the proposed capital budget increasing and what projects are asking for more money?”
The City is seeking approval to fund four high-priority rehabilitation projects with spending extending into 2023-2026 for the Edmonton EXPO Centre, Edmonton Convention Centre, Kinsmen Sports Centre Facility and Edmonton Police Service Headquarters. As well, the Latta Bridge would be replaced.
The City also recommends allocating additional funding to build the 50 Street CPR Grade Separation project, which would ultimately mean traffic will no longer have to wait for the train to cross 50 Street. The additional funding is needed due to an updated cost estimate.
Overall, the City’s capital budget is increasing by $216.8 million. A large part of this ($128.4 million) is from projects advancing through the City’s Project Development and Delivery system, essentially, a series of checkpoints that make sure projects are ready for investment. The City must show that projects are healthy and stable in order for City Council to approve and fund them through concept to design to construction.
City Council will also look at whether to advance the Coronation Park Sports and Recreation Centre from design to construction.
Learn more about the capital budget update for 2022 in the report.
“Do you plan to invest in accessibility services?”
The City is committed to ensuring Edmonton is inclusive, accessible and safe, and considers the needs of all. Thinking about ways to improve accessibility in and around Edmonton is integrated in capital and operating projects whenever possible. For 2021-2024, the City has prioritized 64 actions through the Corporate Accessibility Plan — both for those served and those doing the serving.
“How can we market our city internationally and invest in our airport?”
City partner Explore Edmonton (formerly Edmonton Economic Development Corporation) is working to do just that, and the City has allocated funding to support their efforts in our 2019-2022 budget. The details are on page 540 of the operating budget).
As demand for air travel increases, partners at FlyEIA are working to gain new air services for Edmontonians and bring more people to the city. Over the past two months, Swoop and Flair Airlines have announced new services to Canadian and international destinations.
When Edmonton hosts annual festivals or big events, like the recent World Cup qualifying games at Commonwealth Stadium, the city stays on the map—for visitors and future Edmontonians.
“How has COVID impacted the City’s budget? How is the City managing these impacts?”
Between 2020-2022, the pandemic will have created a budget shortfall of more than $400 million for the City, including a forecast $96.7 million next year. This is one of the most significant impacts on the City’s operating budget in recent history.
COVID has meant lost revenue, especially from transit and recreation facilities. The City has had to pay more money to operate during the pandemic, including adding enhanced cleaning and personal protective equipment, like masks.
The pandemic has hurt Edmontonians’ finances, too. To help keep the property tax levy low during the pandemic, the City has reduced spending, used support from other orders of government and drawn funds from reserves, including those usually used to fund capital projects (roads, bridges, facilities, etc.).
You can learn more about this topic by reading the COVID-19 2022 Financial Impacts and Funding Strategy report.
“I see a forecasted $16 million increase to the operating budget due to work-from-home policies. Shouldn’t that reduce costs? Are you working to reduce leased space or densify owned/leased spaces to reduce costs?”
The pandemic has changed how people work and where people work.
Public health restrictions have meant the City, like many employers, had to shift quickly to remote work for many employees. This meant extra investment in personnel and technology.
The City also has to prepare remote workers for an eventual return to the traditional workplace, which has meant stocking up on personal protective equipment and re-configuring some workspaces, where possible, to allow for continued flexibility in work arrangements.
These rapid shifts to the workplace have added costs to the operating budget. The City is looking for opportunities to reduce leased space and to densify City-owned/leased spaces to reduce operating costs. That work takes time and requires initial investments to relocate staff. Any savings will show up cumulatively over the course of many years.
“How can I provide input into the budget? Why are you doing a survey about taxes?”
Edmontonians are invited to speak up all year about what matters most to them and where tax dollars should go.
When it comes to the 2022 budget updates, we’ve asked for your budget questions (and answered them here), sought your input on taxes in a survey (we’ll share the results with Council during budget deliberations, which start on Nov. 30) and will hold a non-statutory public hearing on Nov. 29 (You can sign up to speak online, by phone or in person, up until the start of the hearing. Further details are here).