On the agenda: Updates on operating and capital budget overruns

· The Pulse

This week, councillors will hold their final meetings before the holiday break. They will discuss forecasted budget deficits, the police commission, collective bargaining, and fare gates at transit stations.

A public hearing is scheduled on Dec. 11 and city council will meet on Dec. 12 with a continuation on Dec. 13. The audit committee will meet Dec. 14, and council will have a private, non-regular meeting on Dec. 15.

Here are central items on the agenda:

  • The city is looking at an operating budget deficit of $52 million as of the end of September. That's about $20 million lower than the last financial update in June, according to the operating budget update. Line items that are different from the previous update include an additional $2.5 million for transit safety and cleaning measures, bringing the total projected variance on transit to nearly $5 million. The city is projecting to need another $500,000 for public washroom costs in response to a Shigella outbreak in the inner city, bringing the total to $2 million. These increases are countered by savings or increased revenues. The city projects it can save about $17 million this year mainly due to unfilled vacancies across city departments, which is nearly $9 million more than projected earlier in the year. The city also expects to bring in $2 million more from membership and admissions revenue due to higher than-expected demand for programs and services, and save $1.5 million from climate resilience and active transportation projects that were delayed.

  • The capital budget update shows the new parkade at the Orange Hub continues creeping over budget — 15% over compared to 10% at the previous update. Pleasantview neighbourhood reconstruction is 4% over budget due to more roadway materials needed than originally expected. The financial updates don't account for any changes from the fall budget adjustment process earlier this month.

  • In a private portion of the meeting scheduled for Dec. 12, council will hear an update on collective bargaining. The agenda for this update does not provide additional details. However, Civic Service Union 52, the union representing more than 6,000 workers within the City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Public Library, and other City-owned divisions, said mediation dates to determine a new collective agreement were scheduled for Dec. 5 and 6. An informal strike vote held in October showed 70% of workers were in favour of a strike, following five years of no pay increases.

  • Ward pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell said he wants the city to install fare gates at two transit stations as a pilot project to see if they reduce violent incidents and fare evasion. Cartmell is this week set to introduce a motion that will ask administration to provide a plan for a two-year trial of the gates. Ward papastew Coun. Michael Janz said fare gates don't make transit safer, but more staff would, and noted a report from the City of Calgary that found there is no correlation between fare gates and increased safety.

Ward pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell at a council meeting in August 2023.

Ward pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell at a council meeting in August 2023. Cartmell wants administration to explore fare gates at transit stations. (Mack Male/Flickr)

Here are some of the other new agenda items:

  • Council will debate providing $2.8 million to Catholic Social Services to fund the construction of the LaSalle Women's Transitional Housing for women and families fleeing domestic violence. The project proponents applied to the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation's Rapid Housing Initiative but were rejected. This put the project at risk of losing committed funding from Alberta Social Housing Corporation's Affordable Housing Partnership Program. The city's contribution would come from its affordable housing reserve and help offset the construction costs for 33 new units.
  • In a private meeting on Dec. 15, council will interview and appoint new members to the Edmonton Police Commission and the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority.
  • The Edmonton Police Service will present its 2022 annual report to council on Dec. 12. The service presented the report to the Edmonton Police Commission earlier this year, and was asked to bring it to council.
  • A property in the Prince Rupert neighbourhood is up for rezoning, but administration is not in support. The applicant is looking to rezone the property to allow a building of up to six storeys with limited commercial uses on the main floor. Administration said the property is not an appropriate place for a mid-rise building as it is not in a node or corridor. A four-storey building currently exists on the lot.
  • Council will vote on the closure of a portion of roadway as a part of the 105 Avenue Streetscape project. Council approval is needed to turn the portion between 112 Street and 113 Street into a car-free plaza.

Meetings stream live on YouTube on the Chamber channel and River Valley Room channel.