December 11, 2020
City Council concluded budget discussions today, approving a number of reductions and changes to arrive at a tax levy increase of zero per cent for 2021 instead of the 3.2 per cent increase for 2021 that was approved last year. This is the city’s lowest tax increase in over two decades.
In November, the City Administration proposed budget amendments to reduce the tax levy in 2021. Economic indicators suggest that Edmonton businesses and households are struggling with the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic climate.
Council discussed operating budget adjustments totalling $64 million, with ongoing reductions of $56.5 million to department budgets and $7.5 million in forecast adjustments, ultimately approving $49.9 million in budget reductions to department budget.
Council approved most of those proposals, but chose to continue funding:
- Five recreation facilities in 2021: Eastglen and Scona Leisure Centres, Oliver Outdoor Pool and Oliver and Tipton Arenas
- The spay and neuter program at the Animal Care and Control Centre
- The Community Investment Operating Grants for an additional year
- All planned service hours for Edmonton Transit’s Bus Network Redesign, turf maintenance service levels and Green Shack programming in spring, fall and winter
These programs are able to continue while still maintaining a zero percent tax increase for 2021 as a result of additional budget savings including the Edmonton Public Library offering a reduction to their annual tax-levy funding, other budget reductions, and use of one-time funding sources.
The 2021 budget includes a reduction of more than 300 full time equivalent positions. Existing vacancies, uptake of the voluntary workforce transition program and other factors will mitigate the number of actual layoffs.
The 2021 budget impacts directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic (decreased revenue and increased expenses) are currently estimated at $152 million and have been addressed with one-time solutions, but the City will continue to monitor the impacts throughout the year. The City acknowledges the contributions of the federal and provincial governments for Municipal Operating Support Transfer/Safe Restart funding that has helped to offset the economic impacts of COVID-19.
“We’ve heard from residents, businesses and partner organizations that they’re feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its financial impact. Which is why I’m pleased Council was able to pass a budget today that is responsive to Edmontonians and the pressures we are facing,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “In the end, Council and administration worked together to achieve a zero per cent tax levy — the lowest since 1997. We did this while also ensuring we are able to keep investing in assets and services that will allow Edmonton to emerge, post-COVID, a healthy, urban and climate-resilient city that supports a prosperous metro region. In other words, to advance the City Plan we passed earlier this week.”
The Fall 2020 Supplemental Operating and Capital Budget Adjustments are part of the City Council approved multi-year budgeting approach. It provides Council with an opportunity to adjust the 2020-2022 Operating Budget in response to changes in external factors, capital projects, unforeseen economic changes or Council-directed changes to priorities, policies and programs.
“Edmonton has been hit hard by the pandemic,” said Adam Laughlin, Interim City Manager. “But we’re addressing a difficult situation with sound budgeting and some tough decisions. We’ve heard Edmontonians, and we’re continuing to move forward with compassion and a focus on a better future.”