Edmonton and Coquitlam finalize budgets and raise taxes by 5%

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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Edmonton chose not to put high profile items on the chopping block in their 2010 Budget

While Vancouverites are being told by their Vision elected officials that 2% is the maximum tax hike they will permit this year (0% for businesses and 4% for residential), other cities are jacking up taxes to cover off expenses.

In neighbouring Coquitlam, council has decided to increase their property taxes by 4.96% to cover off increased labour costs related to the 2007 CUPE collective agreement and new programs. This translates into the average homeowner paying $182 more bucks in taxes next year for basically the same services. According to the Tri-City News:

Water, sewer, drainage and solid waste rates are also increasing, which means the owner of a home with the statistically average assessed value of approximately $500,000 will pay a total of $2,541 in taxes and utilities this year.

Mayor Richard Stewart was somewhat philosophical about the tax increase:

Unfortunately...a tax increase is inevitable. But council and staff have worked diligently to minimize the increase and protect as many of those services as we can.

Over the Rockies in Edmonton, they too have decided to increase their property taxes by 5% next year. They were able to close the $50 million budget gap through service cuts, efficiencies and new revenues. The budget was passed unanimously by council with little public angst. Councillor Jane Batty reacted this way:

All in all, it's Edmontonians who benefit from this budget. Times are difficult; not everybody has the type of money they would like to have. It provides the services they want at a price they can afford.

Rather than taking Vancouver's approach of putting up high profile items on the chopping block, Edmonton's City Manager Al Maurer took a different path. Here is what he told the Edmonton Journal:

I think we were able to do it in a fashion that was acceptable and didn't send shock waves. In the past, some of the reductions were aimed at things that were highly visible and didn't go over that well politically.

Perhaps Vancouver's City Manager and local politicians should be watching Edmonton's budget making process a little more closely. Can you say Stanley Park children's petting zoo anyone? Can you say spooking all of your public servants?

As for who were the big winners in Edmonton's budget? Well, no surprise here. It was the Edmonton Police who continue to top out as the biggest expense incurred by the city - despite the fact crime rates continue to plummet. Here is what the Edmonton Journal had to say about that:

The budget features a three-percent increase for city operations, mainly going to police, and a two-per-cent boost to pay for a fund to fix crumbling neighbourhood roads, sidewalks and street lights.

The hike could have been higher, but an additional$10.8 million added to police revenues will come from a jump in the franchise fee Atco pays the city and an expected drop in the cost of electricity and natural gas.

The extra money allows the service to avoid the possibility of cutting up to 205 positions. Police receive more tax money than any other program and that will be shown as a separate item on the tax bills sent out next spring. The belt-tightening follows on the heels of revenue increases, fee hikes and cuts last spring to eliminate a looming $35.1-million deficit caused by the international financial meltdown.

On a related note, we're told there is growing friction between Vancouver's City Manager and the Vancouver Fire Department. The VFD rank and file are watching their budget get cut while the police remain virtually untouched. On that note, perhaps my previous post on how Vancouver could further reduce fire department costs would make for a good read right about now.

- Post by Daniel

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