Richard Gendron is planning to move his business out of Edmonton as soon as the Valley Line LRT opens.
Ad-Mart has a prime spot on 75 Street, just across from where the new elevated Davies Station is being built. The LRT will bring new exposure, but he won’t be able to afford the taxes.
Already, property taxes have nearly doubled since he bought the property in 2008, driven by both an increase in the land value for his distribution centre and the city’s climbing tax rate, he said. “I’m planning to move. I’ll choose a surrounding municipality … We all have to look at this very seriously.”
Edmonton’s property tax rate is a big issue for many voters this election.
It was the top concern in a survey Leger Marketing released Wednesday. Thirty-four per cent of the 500 voters contacted picked “reducing the tax burden” as a key focus for the next term.
Anand Pye, executive director of the commercial and industrial developers’ association, said many businesses are worried about taxes. Non-residential property owners pay taxes at a rate 2.5 times higher than people pay on their homes, rates 65 per cent higher than the average non-residential rate in surrounding counties, according to a report commissioned last year.
And it’s a bill that’s growing. Edmonton’s tax take increased by 35 per cent in the last five years, to $1.5 billion in 2017 from $1.1 billion in 2013.
That’s OK if the business community is growing at the same rate so more businesses contribute, said Pye. But it’s not. In fact, the size of the assessment of the business community shrank in 2016, said Pye.
“It’s definitely a concern,” he said, worried high taxes could encourage businesses to leave, increasing the burden on those who remain. “That’s what developers are worried about.”
This election, the Edmonton Journal surveyed ward candidates on their budget priorities for the next four-year capital and operating budgets.
Several council candidates called for a tax freeze, including Ward 12 candidate Nigel Logan. He said he’d save money by concentrating growth around transportation nodes.
Ward 2 incumbent Bev Esslinger said freezing taxes seems ideal, but would “freeze our ability to meet the needs of new neighbourhoods,” such as new fire services.
Several incumbents said the 2017 budget increase of 2.9 per cent was the lowest in 10 years. Ward 3 incumbent Dave Loken said council and staff had done a “good job finding ways to create efficiencies.”
Others said council needs to focus on revenue generation. “By not investing more heavily in industry, we’re missing out on big tax dollars,” said Ward 4 candidate Trish Velthuizen.
Some candidates prioritized specific projects. Ward 8 incumbent Ben Henderson listed a small multi-use recreation centre to replace Scona Pool, Ward 5 candidate Miranda Jimmy named the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre, and Ward 6 incumbent Scott McKeen mentioned redoing 105 Avenue in Queen Mary Park.
But keeping taxes low was the biggest theme. Ward 6 candidate Tish Prouse said: “Our seniors can’t afford it, our businesses can’t afford it, and people will eventually leave the city for the bedroom communities.”
Read full comments from the candidates running in your ward and all our coverage at edmontonjournal.com/election.
If elected, you will be voting on new four-year capital and operating budgets in 2018. Explain your budget priorities and thoughts on the current property tax rate (100 words)
Survey results have been lightly edited for grammar.
I would try and find ways to lower the property taxes by eliminating the want projects currently being undertaken to focus more on the actual needs. I classify the technology and expense being put into bicycle traffic as one of the wants. Needs are LRT to the west, infrastructure upgrades and snow removal, not clearing, for bus routes.
We need to prevent further increases to our taxes, including our property tax rate. Edmontonians need a break, and I intend to fight for one.
Rather than spending $2 million dollars to rebrand Edmonton as Edmonton or have $7.5 million go to an expanded bike grid, I’d rather see our ETS fares go down and our civic fees for festivals (which increased as much as 78 per cent) drop as well. Then look at other ways we can lower the cost of living in and doing business in Edmonton.
The major infrastructure priorities are the construction of the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre and Library, the back alley renewal program, and a proper budget to make our sidewalks and trails safe for seniors and those with mobility challenges.
With regards to the upcoming budget deliberations, I am pleased that 2017 was the lowest approved tax increase in the last 10 years and would like to see a target of inflation plus population growth in 2019. With the completion of the program and service level review, I believe this is achievable.
Property taxes need to be tied to inflation. We have to work within our means. That said, if there are funds available, I think rec centres and other projects that increase options for being active are good fits. A healthy body is good for everyone.
I want to work to balance our limited finances with the needs of a growing city and services that we provide. That means we can’t do everything but I would prioritize safety first and growth pressures such as fire services in new areas.
Freezing taxes seems ideal but can also freeze our ability to meet the needs of communities. I would want to ensure we are an efficient organization, and prioritize spending over four years to ensure neighbourhood renewal continues and investment in roads, as it costs too much if we avoid maintaining them.
Property taxes need to be frozen while the province is facing tough economic times. A bad economy effects everyone in every aspect of their lives. Money is tight, and that includes money for their tax bill every year. Not many citizens see an increase in their pay every year, so I don’t want them to see an increase in their tax rate every year.
My priorities for the budget are not regarding specific expenses or projects, rather on how every dollar is accounted for and wisely spent. There is no shortage of pet projects and ideas for how to spend the money, but there seems to be a shortage of oversight and accountability on how that money is spent. I’m not a financial dreamer. I’m a realist, and I believe that no matter what you are spending money on, each dollar needs to be effectively used and the person spending that cash needs to be accountable for it.
Several people have told me they run their households in a fiscally conservative manner, including incurring good debt of a mortgage to finance the purchase of their residence. They have expressed that they would appreciate the municipal government running the city the same way.
They want the city to stick to basics of policing, fire rescue, public transit and snow clearing — and to do them efficiently. Others have shared they have a hard time understanding when their hard-earned property tax dollars go to non-essential projects that should be left to the private sector.
Given the state of the economy and the recent trend of excessive municipal spending downtown, I think it is time to regroup and give residents a break. I would like to hold property taxes at their current level for at least two years.
With money saved from less spending downtown, we could fix Beaumaris Lake and other crumbling infrastructure on the north side. We can beautify our parks, build new playgrounds, and increase snow removal.
This year’s increase of 2.9 per cent was the lowest increase in 10 years. I believe we can continue to offer the high-end services that people expect while at the same time trying to keep the tax rate low. Our new city manager, in partnership with council, has done a good job of finding ways to create efficiencies and savings without it affecting services. We need to continue to do this. My priorities will be to begin the expansion of LRT to the north side and to continue the development of affordable housing.
Yes — No new property taxes for 2018. We need to learn how to manage with less money. Mayor Jan Reimer did it and we can do it too.
Priorities for Ward 3 are roadways, sidewalks and LRT. Councillors in north Edmonton have to boycott any budget that doesn’t address these issues. Property taxes have skyrocketed in the past 10 years. They will double in the next 10 years. Is that what you want? If you keep voting the way you have voted for years that is exactly what will happen. Where does it stop? It has to stop.
City council needs to budget the revenue received instead of raising taxes. Families throughout Edmonton need to budget their households, often without increased income, and city council needs to do the same.
Safety is a priority and therefore police services and fire rescue should be a priority in the budget. Infrastructure is also a priority, being able to navigate the roadways and bike lanes safely is essential. Edmonton’s transit system has improved over the years with the addition and extension of the LRT lines but transit in the outer areas of the city need improvement.
My budget priority will include infrastructure development, education, safety and security of our municipality.
Keep the property tax rate reasonable. I do not see reasons why rates should increase when there is no justification for it. If they voted for me to keep property tax rate low, then I will put their demand first in my consideration.
My priority going into this round of budget discussions would be to focus on core and essential services. Through our big city building exercise, I feel we have lost some focus on those foundational services any great city is built upon. Time and time again, these services are a priority for citizens, and will be a priority of mine.
With respect to the current property tax rate, I’m not happy with the constant four per cent, five per cent, sometimes 10 per cent increases, but understand why it’s happening. Growth pressures, some questionable spending, but more importantly, our relatively small non-residential tax base are contributing to the significant tax increases.
I will advocate for increased infrastructure spending in the northeast, specifically for revitalization of roads and sidewalks.
Increased development (which may also include possible infill development throughout the city) would result in increased property tax revenue, though I still support ongoing, comprehensive reviews of spending throughout all city departments to ensure that funds are being allocated appropriately, and cost saving opportunities are discovered and explored.
There are complaints of high taxes. Increases are a hard sell. It is essential that the city is careful how it uses the taxpayer money. There is a lesson to learn from last year’s surplus status. I would advocate we vigorously look for saving opportunities in operations.
Alternative strategies to use calcium chloride on the major roads should result in savings and or redeployment of resources. As other organizations, I will expect management to look carefully for cost saving opportunities systemwide.
Better fiscal spending is key and we need to think about cuts. Now certain areas, for example police, I wouldn’t touch that. But we need to find some areas that aren’t in such a need and make adjustments on those ends.
My budget priorities are: neighbourhood renewal, accessible public services (police and fire stations; recreation centres), public transit, road maintenance and development, and citywide economic development.
Taxes are a reality of life. City council should have better oversight of projects and make sure money is being spent effectively and responsibly. If that is done, we don’t need to continue to raise taxes as we have in the past.
My budget priorities would be to have a more efficient tendering process for all projects including transportation and infrastructure. We need to tackle crime with a substantial increase in the police services budget.
For property taxes, I think that it should have no increase for one year and then it should be evaluated accordingly. We need to cut waste and look to create an efficient system. Road and land developers should also share the cost when it comes to certain projects.
Raising property taxes is not the answer and while we are facing an economic recovery in this province it would be prudent to keep property taxes capped for the next two years. The city has seen downturns before and there is no need to reinvent the wheel here by re-aligning priorities.
Simply put, we must ensure the essential services to run our city are kept up. We have pushed ahead with capital projects that will propel future growth to this city. These projects, I assume, have built in contingencies and reserves. It’s the job of council to ensure that the reserves are adequately funded to ensure project completion.
As a former property tax assessor, I have a strong understanding of the components that go into property taxation. After reviewing the current spending and city budget, I have concluded that, as a city council, we need to find better value for the current tax dollars we generate, before any new taxes are considered. Even then, as a taxpayer myself, I am not in favour of any new taxes.
We need to look at revenue streams and where we’re spending our money. By not investing more heavily in industry, we’re missing out on big tax dollars that could help decrease residential property taxes. I’d support spending more money on road infrastructure and transit so that our neighbourhoods are well equipped to handle the traffic that comes with development.
Not a penny over inflation rate except fire department and homeless. Everyone else — lean and mean.
I have two priorities: the West LRT Valley Line and the Lewis Estates Community Recreational Centre. The West LRT needs to be completed on time and on budget to connect west end citizens to the core and beyond. We need to build over or under on all major intersections to minimize traffic congestion. The Lewis Estates Recreational Centre will provide much needed resources to the west end so families have a community hub with recreational facilitates.
For Edmonton to be affordable, council must keep property tax increases in line with inflation as much as possible.
Like the majority of Edmontonians, I support paying taxes for services, programs and infrastructure in our city. But we want to see to see the value for these tax dollars spent.
During my time in government and politics, I’ve sat at the table and prepared budgets and understand the need for collaboration to ensure tax rates don’t continue to climb. My priority is to keep the current property tax rate affordable so families can continue to live in the communities in Edmonton they have helped build.
My priorities for the next budget will focus on investing in major projects that impact Ward 5. Specifically, this includes funding the completion of west Valley Line LRT and investing in transit, building the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre, and additional fire stations for our growing neighbourhoods.
On the issue of property taxes, I believe the move to multi-year budgeting was positive. However, the current cycle has had drastic swings year over year — including increases that could be difficult for many residents to afford. We must be realistic about continuing to invest in our community but, that said, taxes should never outpace cost of living.
As an experienced businessman and contractor I will be of assistance. Let me be straight up with you, I have no prior experience as a city councillor. Some of those areas may need more or less funding. I do not want to impede any ongoing projects or decisions that have already been motioned or passed. This could incur additional costs for the taxpayers in the end result of changes.
I consider the west LRT project as a project that will shape the future of west Edmonton for many years ahead. We must revisit the current proposed design to ensure that the upcoming construction will provide the best service for the most people and not have a negative impact on Ward 5 residents travelling in and out of the ward.
We must approach with caution any increases in property taxes because it has a significant impact on all middle-class households, and even more impact on those living on fixed incomes.
It will be my priority to find additional sources of revenue for the city’s budget and ensure fairness for all taxpayers.
For many families, tax is money that would have otherwise gone into kids’ college funds, investments and retirement savings. Municipal budgets are about choosing how we manage people’s money, this is an important question. The delivery of essential services and infrastructure is priority.
Police, fire, community and recreation services along with roads, transit and snow removal are examples where there are still gaps in some communities. We could also do things better and cheaper. I would like to start a new technology and optimization unit tasked with improving and optimizing government services through innovations in AI, automation and other technology.
One priority is the anticipated Columbia Avenue, along 105 Ave through Queen Mary Park. The city approved apartment buildings in this area, yet residents have to walk on the road to reach downtown.
Certainly, councillors are duty-bound to have a citywide perspective. But, Oliver, with nearly 20,000 residents, is deserving of consideration for an urban recreation/cultural centre, designed with community input.
Taxes? The service and program review ordered by council this term must find savings through improved service delivery, or even a decision to retire some lines of civic business. Any found savings should be returned to taxpayers.
I would like to call in an independent auditor to review city books. I understand there is a review taking place. It’s taking too long. We have been raising taxes and user taxes as well. I would like us to continue to expand our LRT, taking care of our neighbourhoods, recreation and other core services.
Our city has a habit of spending lots of money for consultants and branding and advertising to try and figure out where things aren’t working, why, and how to change them. I would be severely limiting this spending, and take citizen consultations instead, giving them more weight.
There are other aspects of our city’s expenses like this that need a different mentality to evaluate than what we currently have, because our taxes cannot keep increasing year after year. Our seniors can’t afford it, our businesses can’t afford it, and people will eventually leave the city for the bedroom communities around.
I am also in favour of a tax freeze for the entire upcoming term while we sort out where we are spending too much. Our city administration needs to learn how to budget within their means.
Edmonton is an aspirational city. Our aim is to end poverty in a generation, to catch up on transportation infrastructure and increase density in our mature neighbourhoods. While this is exciting, it is important that we don’t lose sight of our “kitchen table” issues.
Mass transit doesn’t mean much if you feel unsafe waiting in the station and there’s no sense increasing density if young families and seniors can’t swallow the cost of living in a core neighbourhood.
My priority will be to work with the mayor and council to transition from a “big-small city” to a “small-big city” with an eye for ensuring affordability and that our core business is intact.
Capital is directly tied to operations. If you build it you also have to staff and operate it. The city needs to increase our non-residential tax base, in order to not be so reliant on residential tax base.
Andrzej (Andy) Gudanowski
My duty as a councillor is to make sure that taxes are stabilized. Currently the city taxes are too high. Always can be enough money for everything, under one condition, that we will not wasting them and do not steal. Main solution is — the city must be well controlled and watch when spend public money. One of the most important factors in determining the budget is to determine not to exceed the budget deficit.
My top three budget priorities would be fixing aging infrastructure, crime prevention and responding to social issues such as ending homelessness, and gender-based violence.
Property taxes in Edmonton currently sit at amongst the lowest in the province. While still being responsive to the changing economic climate and fluctuating house prices, I would advocate for keeping it at its current rate.
Property taxes have been rising faster than inflation quite some time now. We owe it to property owners to keep the property tax rate constant with inflation for at least the next four years. My budget priorities are getting caught up on the maintenance and repair of city infrastructure and upgrading utilities and drainage.
I would encourage development by having the city pay for the infrastructure while raising taxes on properties that are left vacant for too long.
I support the principle of increasing taxes to meet the costs of inflation for the delivery of public goods and services. Every budget needs to be judged on what’s in it and viewed with consideration of whatever current and forecasted economic situation is in play.
Nobody likes a tax increase and I recognize that raising property taxes means households have less to spend on local business. However, not raising taxes inevitably results in cuts to services that the economically disadvantaged can’t just go out and purchase on their own.
The goal should always be to increase taxes as little as possible but my priority will always be the delivery of quality services to the public. I am always open to looking at ways to mitigate tax increases for seniors and low-income homeowners.
My No. 1 priority is that senior citizens are not overwhelmed by city taxes and fees. Taxes and fees that could drive them from their homes. I would want to see any proposed increases in taxes and fees vigorously examined to make sure that citizens get value for taxes and fees paid.
The budget reflects the values of our city. We need to prioritize community investments that bring dividends back to communities. Preventive policies (e.g. supportive housing) are the long-term economically and socially responsible choice. Full cost analysis and gender based budgeting are also ways we can assess impact.
Our infrastructure deficit needs urgent attention or we will not be able to maintain the level of service we expect without dramatic tax increases. We need to work with new tax options to shift the way we grow and the infrastructure burden. Our taxes and our budget are an investment in livable communities.
The challenge of our budgets on the capital side is that we must continue to reinvest sufficiently in our existing infrastructure to reverse the deterioration that was allowed in that infrastructure over previous decades, and at the same time commit to the substantial demands of growth in our city on that infrastructure and in our operation. We need to ensure that we can continue to provide the high quality of life in our services and access to quality facilities that people have come to expect.
Citizens are particularly frustrated when they see taxes go up and service go down. All of this must be done in the face of continued inflation. Our challenge must be to continue to find efficiencies in our operation so that we can keep tax increases to a minimum while not compromising the level of service Edmontonians have come to expect and also allow our city to continue to move forward and grow.
Specifically on the capital side for Ward 8, I would like to see us move forward with the new streetscape plans for both 109 Street and 101 Avenue, a new small multi-use recreation centre to replace Scona pool, and on the less costly side a basic bike grid similar to the new one downtown for the core south side, particularly in the heavy use areas around Strathcona and the university.
My highest priority would be to see significant improvement in transit service and the adoption of a Smart Card system. The city needs to move beyond LRT and implement BRT to broaden our transit options to meet the needs of Edmonton commuters. I would, however, also seek to find efficiencies through consultations with the auditor’s office in order to maintain the current property tax rate.
I think it is critical to seek public engagement on the top priorities for the city’s budget. For the current budget we heard from residents that moving people through the city, specifically LRT expansion, was one of the public’s top priorities. We need to engage with them again to understand what the public’s concerns are for the 2018 budget. We know that community safety, snow removal, infill development and homelessness are also top of mind. We need to find a property tax rate that is reasonable for and accountable to taxpayers but still helps the city meet its growing needs.
Given the economic climate we are currently in, we must be mindful about how we spend and where we spend it. City council needs to show restraint. The main priority for the city should be that our infrastructure is paid for.
We have new tax options thanks to the new charter, providing increased revenue streams for projects. We should also be adjusting taxes on vacant and derelict lots. Council needs to work directly with auditors to review the projects that were under and over budget.
There needs to be an overview of city departments and administration practices to find inefficiencies and this should be done on a constant basis.
My priority will be to spend on things that realize the greatest benefit to Edmontonians, and to eliminate spending on things that don’t. I want to see Edmonton spend money much more efficiently, so I will be looking to see significant operational budget efficiencies.
I want to see the early results of the current two per cent annual departmental reductions previous council directed city administration to realize, and take action as required. I want us to examine capital expenditures from a broader perspective and to ask and answer questions like, what is the cost of lost productivity saved by building an interchange or a grade separation on an LRT line?
We need to be very careful with the property tax rate considering the current economy, as we don’t want it to be detrimental to those who are already unemployed or struggling to get by. Traffic congestion is a concern for many in Ward 9, but I will need input from the public to determine what we collectively want to prioritize.
These are our tax dollars being spent so we should all have the opportunity to voice our opinions and be heard. I am not against spending money, but I am against wasting it. Every dollar should be spent wisely, so we have more to spread around. One area of spending I am not OK with is the salary I would be paid as a city councillor. I believe it is too high which is why, if I am elected, I plan to donate $10,000 of it to a good cause which will be decided on with input from Edmontonians.
Edmonton’s budget needs to be focused on what we need rather than what we want. Our infrastructure projects are inefficient/reactive and this is withholding potential investment into our city and proving to be an obstacle to Edmontonians.
Our transit services are often overcapacity in areas and underused in other areas. Twenty-first century partnerships will not only save taxpayer dollars, but deliver a far better service in transit and many other areas including waste collection, snow removal and others. You’re electing someone to be in charge of your tax dollars and their spending habits during a campaign is a good indicator.
The past budget was $4.5 billion. The new four-year capital and operating budget will be no less, but what are Edmontonians getting in return. My priorities on the budget will be police services, roads and infrastructure, and transit.
Edmontonians want better police services to keep the community safe. But the cost of constant delays and problems of large projects such as the new bridges, Metro and the new Valley LRT lines are inexcusable. Edmontonians are upset paying for these mistakes. Property tax has gone up by 2.8 per cent but their property values have gone down considerably by five to 10 per cent.
I believe strongly in “priority based budgeting.” As such, and because I am not an incumbent and not privy to the short- and long-term strategic planning happening in administration I think it would be premature to make claims about budgeting that I am not fulling informed about.
With that said, the development and maintenance of infrastructure and the development of capacity to create and maintain city services without having to endlessly use contractors or subcontractors without planning to create capacity in the long run is very important to me. I envision a city that focuses on economic diversification.
I envision a city where property taxes are considerably less than the 50 per cent of the city’s revenue, a city where manufacturing and distribution share the tax burden thereby reducing the need for drastic rate increases year to year.
First, I will ask the question of where we have the opportunity of stretching our budget. Seeking areas we can collaborate with provincial and federal government so we can get those matching funds will be a priority. Best way to keep property tax rates in control is by finding other sources of revenue, and of course, by making sure we spend wisely.
I will demand to see benchmark data on what other cities are able to achieve with what budget and encourage each city department/project to find efficiencies. In terms of property taxes, the city already has a great tool available at its discretion, which is to utilize tax-rate subclasses. A 2016 Property Taxation White Paper already outlines great suggestions. We just need a council committed to a vision for our city, and willing to act and make things happen.
My budget priorities are focused on projects, like the Heritage Valley Park and Ride, extension of the south LRT, and more community LRT Stations allowing communities to take full advantage of the LRT. A new southwest roadway and parks operations yard to vastly improve services in southwest Edmonton.
I also believe our city needs to invest in important capital and social infrastructure like a southwest Edmonton seniors centre and a replacement facility for the Scona Pool. We need more support for families with children with anxiety disorders and mental illness of any kind. Current property tax rates reflect lowest increase in last 10 years.
Glenda K. Williams
I think it’s great that the city kept the tax increase to a minimal amount of 3.3 per cent this year.
My priorities are:
*Stop Carding, hire more minorities for the police force
*Low income/affordable housing
*Address seniors transit issues
*Support early childhood education — our children are our most important resource; they need the opportunities to be the champions they can be
*Support separated bike lanes
*Develop a fix to manage the cause of the back alley pot holes and get them paved and included in street maintenance
*Address affordable infill and if there are adverse effects on fixed income homeowners. Of course this is planning over four years.
Current property taxes are not among the highest but among the lowest so this is good. My budget priorities is getting value for our money. With that said, I believe in moving forward with investment like solar that will create jobs, future savings and revenue.
I know I sound repetitious but solar is just that great and the longer we put it off the longer we miss out on this opportunity.
I’ve yet to meet an Edmontonian that doesn’t work hard, and those hard-earned dollars need to be respected when budgets are set. There is a need for stable property taxes, with a predictable annual rate, for citizens and businesses.
Many neighbours have noted that the rate of increase does not match the quality of service they expect, and that the city is being wasteful. I think the capital and operating budgets in 2018 are an opportunity for us to do better as a city — take a real look at communicating value, cutting red tape, improving customer service and transparency.
Work is required with the financial department of the City of Edmonton to minimize that tax increases for property and business owners. There is a need for talks around a standard tax increase.
It is clear from my constituents that many have hit the wall with regards to the decades-long tax increase they have had to bear. It is clearly time to prioritize, organize and execute around our core services.
There is a clear difference between a want and a need at city hall and I am committed to meeting only the needs to keep our tax burden to the absolute minimum. We do not have a tax problem at city hall, we have a spending problem. This means some things will have to wait as we finish the myriad projects that are already on the books.
With regard for value for your taxes, it is not just about money but ensuring that when money is spent it is spent wisely and efficiently as possible.
Capital budget priorities must focus on “cost-saving” infrastructure. That means transit and active transportation, which reduces our significant roadway costs. The city’s own white paper touts $700 million in annual benefits from transit on a $300 million investment! It means supportive and affordable housing which — in concert with the province — saves us health care and policing dollars.
Our operating budget must focus on delivering higher levels of service where Edmontonians need it most. Across the world, businesses and governments are delivering better service for less cost. They’re achieving that through properly leveraging technology, something the city must do as well.
Based on conversations with Ward 11 residents, I would prioritize public transit, neighbourhood maintenance, and affordable housing. The city could better engage communities to identify local solutions by working through community leagues, the Abundant Community Edmonton initiative, and community recreation co-ordinators.
Taxes increases are necessary to meet growing service demands, but are not sustainable if they outpace wage growth. To stabilize taxation, we must find savings elsewhere (e.g., regional collaboration with neighbouring municipalities) and seek additional revenue streams. Tax rates may vary from year to year, but should be predictable and sustainable for Edmontonians, as informed by inflation and cost-of-living data.
Moe (Mohinder) Banga
My budget priorities would be focused on items that are critical for Edmonton, such as infrastructure, safety, unemployment and education opportunities for our future generations. In regards to the current property tax, I would be in favour of the zoning process to increase our tax base rather than the tax rate.
The common wisdom goes something like this: low density, low taxes, good services — pick two.
The reality is that we have a revenue problem — it costs upwards of $10,000 to service a house in the far flung suburbs which make up a large portion of Ward 12. Commute time is already an issue — the solution is to increase density around transportation hubs throughout the city to lower the overall tax burden. My goal would be to freeze the tax rate where it is and look for strategic priorities to reduce it via zoning in the coming years.
Access to local schools for residents and increased police resources to combat rising property crime in our neighbourhoods are priorities for Ward 12 and myself. Major projects will be heavily scrutinized with an eye to bringing Edmontonians the most possible value for their tax dollar.
I would like to see the 2018 and future residential property taxes at or below a three per cent increase per year, in keeping with last year’s overall increase of 2.8 per cent. This should keep Edmonton competitive with property tax rates of other municipalities in the region.
As a property owner for nearly 30 years, I have felt the impact of property tax increases and wondered where the money was going. As a new council, we will need to do a better job being the stewards of residents’ tax dollars. We have to improve the controls that are in place to manage procurement and the rewarding of contracts on projects and set clearly defined expectations and outcomes to reduce cost overruns and time delays.
Communication is also key as the increase in annual property tax costs is not only attributable to the mill rate, but is also impacted by the rising market value of property. As an example, the mill rate in 2012 was 5.0126 and rose to 6.0066 in 2017. On a $200,000 property, that would mean an increase of just under $200. However if the property value rose to $250,000 in that time, the property owner would see an actual total difference of $500.
I believe that government needs to be accountable to its citizens and strive to offer the best service at the best price. Just like in private business, when someone is asked to hand over money they expect good value in return.
I believe there are many areas in which the council can do better. Bid processes need to be improved and a bit of forward planning would save millions from the budget. Current property tax rates will be reviewed and adjusted to meet the needs of the new cut-down expenses.