Updated: Jun 30
On December 11, 2020, City Council wrapped our fall supplemental budget adjustment deliberations, and I’m pleased to say we were able to achieve a 0% tax increase for 2021, down from what was projected to be a 3.2% increase. This represents the lowest property tax increase since 1997 and, after accounting for inflation and population growth, accounts for a significant reduction in the City budget.
Every year, during budget deliberations, my Council colleagues and I seek to find efficiencies and reduce costs wherever possible. Between 2014 and 2018, Council directed Administration to find annual savings equivalent to 2% of the annual tax levy through innovation and continuous improvement, which has led to more than $127 million in efficiencies. In addition, City departments have been undergoing a program and service review in order to reduce costs and keep our services efficient, effective and relevant.
This year, however, in order to reduce the tax burden on families and businesses in our city, we have had to go much further and make some hard choices. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the lives of Edmontonians, and has led to increased cost pressures and reduced revenues for the City’s budget.
Our Interim City Manager and his team deserve a lot of credit for making some very difficult decisions, presenting a budget proposal to Council that includes hundreds of permanent layoffs. We will see reductions of 8.7% to senior management, 5.1% to middle management, and 6.8% to frontline supervisors. To share the burden of these cuts, we also voted to reduce Councillors’ and the Mayor’s office budgets. Though we may notice a real impact on service levels, we have made every effort to retain core services, like snow and ice control, in order to reduce the direct impact on Edmontonians while lowering costs for taxpayers.
I heard from many of you in the weeks leading up to budget deliberations with your feedback, and the good news is that Council managed to find creative ways to save many of the programs and services that had residents concerned. Among those items on the operating side, we saved Oliver, Scona and Eastglen pools, Oliver and Tipton arenas, the City’s spay & neuter program and the Community Investment Operating Grant. We also managed to preserve transit service hours and modify the turf maintenance schedule to retain ongoing April-September service. As for the Capital Budget, Council protected key projects like Valley Line West LRT and ongoing neighbourhood renewal, so that we can continue to invest in critical infrastructure and support our economic recovery.
My goal with this year’s budget was to keep costs to taxpayers as low as possible, but not at the expense of the services and supports that residents need to get through the pandemic, while maintaining our investment in city building. I’m proud that we were able to hold the line at 0% this year, but this will not come without challenges. Edmontonians are resilient, and this is a time when we need to find ways to innovate and collaborate with the people who are invested in our city, from community leagues to private businesses. I am confident that this budget strikes the right balance for 2021 and sets up opportunities to reimagine our city in the decade ahead.