Council passes budget without playing chicken

Council passes budget without playing chicken

Edmonton city councillors last week voted 12 to one to increase property taxes by 6.6% during the 2023-2026 budget adjustment, an outcome that spurred some to explain why they had an apparent change of heart from the last time they debated a budget.

"We did hear some others, like Coun. Knack and Coun. Cartmell, also try to justify why they had voted no last year but are voting yes this time," said co-host Mack Male on Episode 244 of Speaking Municipally. "Coun. Knack talked about how it'd be pretty hypocritical to support basically every amendment to increase the budget and then vote no against it in the end," Male said. "We avoided that budget chicken."

The lone vote against the budget adjustment was from Coun. Rice, who has recently been accused of creating a hostile work environment.

Messaging from councillors after the vote was relatively consistent, with several framing the tax increase as a daily cost of $8.71 for the continuation of 70 services — a comparison that fell flat with the show hosts.

"I've never once thought about my City of Edmonton property tax as a per-day expenditure, nor do I actually think that $8.71 per day is a number that gives me a whole lot of joy," said co-host Troy Pavlek.

Pavlek expressed concern that councillor messaging about property taxes was unclear, especially pointing out that a third of property tax revenues go the province.

Male said only Coun. Janz touched on the role of the Alberta government in the tax increase during his closing remarks.

"He talked about the photo radar funding going away, the province reducing the amount that it actually pays in property taxes, and that the province has this really large surplus," Male said. "And yet, councillors are left debating whether or not they should cut the grass once or twice a year. He (Janz) was essentially doing all of the work, the heavy lifting there, to criticize the province, and nobody else mentioned it — and it wasn't in the news release."

Councillor final remarks also zeroed in on the approved $3 million in funding for responding to encampments, and concerns about the budget-saving motion OP12 and its effectiveness.

To hear more about the budget adjustment, Coun. Rice's bullying allegations, and an update on Warehouse Park, check out the Dec. 1 episode of Speaking Municipally.

Photo: The fall supplementary budget discussion began on Nov. 21 and was finalized on Nov. 28. (Mack Male/Flickr)