City council aims to keep Edmonton property taxes affordable despite difficult fiscal position: Sohi

Despite the City of Edmonton’s difficult financial situation, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi says he and city councillors will work to keep citizens’ taxes manageable even as it becomes more difficult to fund city services.

“We want to make sure that Edmontonians’ living remains affordable, that our taxes remain affordable,” the mayor said Monday.

His comments came the same day city administrators told council that just to maintain current service levels while simultaneously following through on projects the city has already committed to, the city may need to increase property taxes by 8.5 per cent in 2023, followed by more increases over the following three years.

“That is not where council will land, I can tell you that,” Sohi said, indicating such a tax hike would likely not be palatable for Edmontonians.

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Administration told city councillors that there are indications Edmontonians are expecting more from the city when it comes to dealing with snow and ice in the winter, transit improvements and taking action on climate change.

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At the same time, Edmonton has been seeing declining revenues from both transit fares and photo radar traffic tickets as of late.

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“The funding challenges we are projecting are significant,” acknowledged Jodie Graham, the city’s budget office director.

“How do we do what people expect us to do without charging them a 10 per cent property tax increase to do it?” Coun. Tim Cartmell mused.

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He also suggested that some of the fiscal challenges faced by ordinary citizens these days are the same ones the city has to grapple with.

“You’ve seen it on your power bill, you’ve seen it on your gas bill and you’ve seen it at the pumps — inflation’s a real thing and it’s a real thing for the City of Edmonton too,” Cartmell said.

In June, administration will provide city council with a more detailed breakdown of the city’s fiscal scenario when it comes to the four-year budget cycle at which point councillors will begin to look at having further discussions about the challenges Edmonton is facing.

–With files from Sarah Ryan, Global News

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