City of Edmonton recommends $65.5M capital budget increase

· The Pulse
By Mack Male

Administration is recommending a $65.5 million increase to the approved capital budget in the spring 2021 supplemental capital budget adjustment. That would bring the total approved tax-supported capital budget to more than $9.6 billion, including $7.1 billion in the 2019-2022 budget and $2.5 billion in 2023 and beyond.

The 2021 construction season kicked off in early May with 268 projects underway. The City of Edmonton's capital program was not reduced due to the pandemic in "an effort to support jobs and the economy in line with the efforts of other orders of government."

The recommended adjustments include $12.3 million due to budget overruns, $13 million for new projects including two Edmonton Police Service projects totalling $12.7 million, and $34.9 million in new funding for existing projects including $1.26 million to purchase two hydrogen buses as part of the bus fleet replacement project.

A hydrogen bus.

With council's approval, Edmonton would purchase its first two hydrogen buses next year. (Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association)

The City of Edmonton's corporate funding pool - comprised of neighbourhood renewal taxes, Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grants, federal gas tax grants, and pay-as-you-go funding - had a deficit of $7.8 million after the fall 2020 budget adjustments. Since then, the balance has increased to $64.4 million despite a $31.9 million reduction in MSI funding. That cut is part of the $400 million gap in provincial infrastructure funding projected for the City of Edmonton.

On the positive side, administration expects to receive $55.6 million in federal gas tax funding for 2021. While an agreement confirming the gas tax amount is not yet in place, administration recommends spending $17.3 million to relieve existing budget pressures which includes cost increases of $11.9 million related to the Stadium LRT upgrade. Another $26.7 million would be held to address emerging items such as the 50th Street CPR Grade Separation, NE Pedestrian Bridge, and 170 Street Pedestrian Bridge projects which have a total estimated cost of $50.5 million.

After taking all budget adjustments and other recommendations into account, the corporate funding pool would have a balance of $20.1 million. Administration recommends the full amount remain unallocated and available for future budget challenges though city council could choose to spend it on other priorities. There are more than 100 items on the unfunded projects list.