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8.9% - My Thoughts on the Spring Supplementary Operating Budget Adjustment

Updated: May 7

After the four-year budget was set in 2022, the baseline was set. You can find my record and our discussions on that process here. This past fall in 2023, the adjusted budget was approved at 6.6%; to be concise, that adjustment accounted for an arbitrated salary settlement, better snow removal, and some modest improvements to the transit system. I considered these reasonable because the baseline was 4.8%, Edmontonians got improved services and to not approve a salary settlement would leave the city in a deficit position which is not reasonable nor is it permitted under the Municipal Government Act.

Since the fall budget adjustment, there have been additional salary settlements. Inflation continues to add pressure to municipal operations – specifically, utility costs and interest rates have gone up substantially, something every household in Edmonton is feeling.

While I know many of my colleagues will point to their frustrations with the provincial government and the changes in Municipal Sustainable Initiatives and the Local Government Fiscal Framework that have happened over the past few years (a frustration nearly every city in Canada has with its province, I might add), I also think that cities have had as much uploading as they have downloading.

Civil society has changed, and along with it the expectations of local government. The makeup of service organizations has changed, donor behaviour has changed, and increasingly local governments are asked to take on the work formerly done by non-profits or charities. In short, the value proposition for local government has changed, and our charters have not evolved with the needs of the people we serve.

I was asked last Tuesday on 630 CHED about whether or not Edmontonians need to “look in the mirror”. That comment is a bit of an Easter egg for keen political watchers, but I did agree that maybe council needs to reflect a bit on how we got here and how we get ourselves to a sustainable place. 

Budgets are creatures of policy, plans and motions, so understanding how those things drive budgets over time is something that we need to pull apart. With 15 months left in the term and two adjustments left, it will be largely up to the next council to undertake this exercise. But we can start now and set the next term up for successful conversations around priorities and the policies that will get us there.

I have a lot of suggestions from folks who want us to cut the “nice to haves” — I hear you. What is defined as “nice to haves” however, differs across the city — one person’s “nice to have” is another person’s necessity. This budget added modest packages for street cleaning downtown and event attraction, which spurs on economic development activity. In the fall supplementary council approved improved snow clearing and additional bus service. Those all fall within the ordinary work of municipal government. Between now and the next four year budget, council has two critical opportunities to hear from Edmontonians on what they deem as key priorities and what service levels they want: the pre-budget public consultation throughout 2026, and the 2025 municipal election.

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To Mrs Hamilton, according to the news, the city is going to bail out the Citadeal for millions of dollars which to me is a nice to have not need to have. I also heard that city has not been collecting property taxes from the Provical Government, they have been holding back on grants. To me things are not being fairly divided.I hope the city can stand up to provincal government and get them to pay their part, this may lower our property taxes.


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