The conversations and decisions at City Hall over the next two months will influence the city of Edmonton and the lives of the people who live here for the next four years and well beyond.
Budget season is underway.
“The budget balances economic realities with investment in projects critical to our growth and maintaining what we’ve already built.” said Stacey Padbury, Chief Financial Officer and Deputy City Manager of the Financial and Corporate Services Department at the City of Edmonton.
The 2023-2026 Budget is a proposal. It was developed by City of Edmonton staff (Administration) and presented to the elected members of City Council, who ask questions, adjust and then finalize the budget in December.
The budget is actually four budgets: capital, operating (that’s where taxes are set) and two utility budgets. First up: the $7.75-billion, 2023-to-2026 Proposed Capital Budget.
Capital budget and you
This diagram shows where the City’s financial team recommends the capital money be spent. The three biggest categories are Movement of People and Goods, LRT Expansion and Recreation and Culture.
Here’s another way to crunch the numbers: $4.44 billion covers previously approved growth and renewal projects, and the remaining $3.31 billion covers new projects ($2.21 billion for renewal and $1.1 billion for brand new growth).
Another way to understand the proposed capital budget is as a map for the construction projects that City Administration recommends move ahead over the next four years. The decisions Council makes on the capital budget will shape the way Edmontonians live and move around the city.
Tough choices for tough times
A $7.75 billion capital budget is big (687 pages) and complex. In developing the document, City finance experts looked at what is in place now, looked ahead to where the City wants to be and suggested what’s actually possible. Administration also considered how the economic landscape has changed since the last four-year budget was presented in 2018.
Not only are residents and businesses emerging from the effects of the global pandemic, they’re also all dealing with inflation, supply-chain challenges and other issues that play into a collective economic situation shadowed by global conflict. The budget balances those economic realities with investment in projects critical to our growth and maintaining what we’ve already built.
“We are treading carefully through this period of economic recovery—moving neither too slowly nor too quickly,” said Padbury. “While it’s good to be cautious, we’re also optimistic that Edmonton will recover and thrive.”
The proposed capital projects will support the economy and the construction sector over the next four years and beyond, as Edmonton builds and rebuilds.
We asked, you answered
The City asked Edmontonians to help build the budget by sharing what matters to you. And you responded—lots of you. There were more than 32,000 individual visits to the Engaged Edmonton website, where more than 3,000 people used the balance- the-budget tool.
The City also met with community organizations that support Edmontonians who experience unique barriers and challenges. Additionally, pop-up events and workshops with stakeholders were held. Read the What We Heard Report for more details.
The $4.4 billion in capital projects approved by previous City Councils are what the City calls transformational projects. They have the potential to change how people experience Edmonton. They are aligned with the vision and goals in ConnectEdmonton and The City Plan.
Among these investments are three LRT expansion projects (Valley Line West, the Capital Line South and the Metro Line to Blatchford) and the Yellowhead Trail Freeway Conversion.
The capital budget also includes specific funding for the Coronation Sports Park and Recreation Centre, and Lewis Farms Recreation Centre and Library, as well as an expansion of the Edmonton Valley Zoo.
The City’s capital budget carries the cost to maintain more than 9.1 million assets, including:
• 11,000+ km of roads and alleys
• 5,000 km of sidewalks
• 600 km of trails
• 900+ facilities
• Almost 100 light rail vehicles
The capital budget’s $2.21 billion in renewal includes High Level Bridge (110 years old) and William Hawrelak Park (55 years old) rehabilitation The budget also leaves room to start replacing the City’s original LRT fleet, which is more than 40 years old.
Maintaining those aspects of daily life in Edmonton means avoiding costly repairs or replacements in the future.
Relative to the size of the entire capital budget, the money available for new projects is small. This $1.1 billion includes fire halls, safe crossings in communities and roads and pathways. It also includes initiatives that drive economic development and attract talent and business by supporting industrial development, a vibrant downtown core and Chinatown.
There is also budget money set aside for a new transit garage, so the City can move forward with plans to transition its bus fleet to electric and hydrogen. The hope is to leverage grant funding from other orders of government to make that happen.
Where does the money come from?
A lot of the money used to build the capital projects comes from other orders of government through grants. These grants pay for about 39 per cent of the 2023-2026 budget. The City also uses tax-supported debt, reserves and investment income.
The City uses debt to move priority infrastructure projects forward. Not doing so would add time (in some cases decades) and money (inflation, interest rates, construction costs) to the timeline and price of the projects.
Using debt means Edmontonians paying for a facility or road or LRT route will be able to use and enjoy them. In other words, debt allows the City to build now and spread the cost out more fairly to all users over the life of a project, keeping an eye on what its reduced buying power might mean for the scale of some proposed projects.
You can follow the budget process at Council or sign up for a public hearing by visiting edmonton.ca/meetings.
The Proposed Operating Plan and Budget, and Carbon Budget, will be released November 3, 2022, with the presentation at City Council on November 14.
The Proposed Utility Budgets and Rate Filings (Blatchford Utility and Waste Services Utility) are released on November 10, and presented to Council on November 25.
Register for Non-Statutory Public Hearings (November 17) and Non-Statutory Public Hearings (November 28 and 29). Budget deliberations start December 1 and are scheduled until December 16.
This budget is only the Administration’s proposed plan—a draft—that will be debated, adjusted and ultimately approved by City Council. Once the budget process is complete and Council approves the plan, City staff will put the final budget together.
Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows Edmonton City Hall, the site of budget presentations, public hearings and deliberations.