Edmonton's deficit likely to cause pain, podcast posits

Edmonton's deficit likely to cause pain, podcast posits

Tax increases or service cuts seem inevitable in light of the $73.8-million deficit the City of Edmonton is projecting by the end of this year, noted the city hall watchers at Speaking Municipally.

In a financial update to city council on Sept. 12, city manager Andre Corbould said administration will continue to curb discretionary spending. But it has already been doing that under a budget amendment called OP12, and the hole seems deeper than minor restraint can fill, co-host Mack Male observed on Episode 233 of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

"There's definitely going to be some challenges," Male said. "Taxes are going up, or there's going to be some more substantial cuts than what we were anticipating with OP12."

Meanwhile, the rainy-day fund is not enough to bail the city out.

"We cannot fund that entire deficit with the financial stabilization reserve if we want to have anything left in there for its purpose," Male added. "So that's pretty concerning."

A big chunk of the budget shortfall is related to salary settlements that were higher than expected, including the recent Edmonton Police Service contract, which was not included in the police funding formula.

Co-host Troy Pavlek wondered whether Edmontonians are getting value for money on that front in light of the Safer Public Spaces announcement on Sept. 11. Chief Dale McFee promised a crackdown on open-air drug use, violence, and disorder. But it wasn't clear to Pavlek and Male what the police were going to start doing differently, nor could they understand why the police service hadn't been dealing with these things before.

"If what they have said they're about to do is a meaningful change, then this is an embarrassing press conference," Pavlek said. "This is an admission of guilt for the past decade of extreme budget increases with no results."

Hear much more from our municipal-affairs commentators on these issues, as well as the Boyle Street closure, a surprising discovery about downtown parking lots, and an update on affordable housing on the Sept. 15 episode.

Photo: City manager Andre Corbould addresses Edmonton's city council at an Aug. 23 meeting on police funding. (Mack Male/Flickr)