Edmonton Chamber Disappointed Property Taxes Going Up, Not Down
The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce is pleased that its work with local businesses and Prosperity Edmonton clearly led to a heightened awareness at City Hall of the impact unsustainable spending has on struggling local businesses. The Chamber cannot, however, support a property tax hike of 10.4% over four years.
“We made it a priority this year to work with other business groups and the City to address the unreasonable tax burden on businesses,” Edmonton Chamber President & CEO Janet Riopel said. “It is deeply disappointing that despite all the positive feedback and various cost savings put forward, Council actually raised the proposed tax increase on struggling businesses in Edmonton.”
Through our series of City Budget Bulletins, we raised awareness about how Edmonton’s competitiveness is jeopardized by further tax increases, showed some of the reasons our City budget is inefficient, and proposed both general and specific strategies to find savings.
“It was encouraging to see Council and Administration take a hard look at areas we highlighted like recreation centres, staffing levels, employee compensation, and Priority-Based Budgeting,” said Riopel. “But in the end it feels like more of the same, with four more years of tax hikes during this prolonged recession. How does this help Edmonton’s competitiveness in any way?”
The Edmonton Chamber has always maintained that legitimate emerging priorities need to be funded, but we showed that we can fund them from savings within the existing budget instead of continuing to rely on raising property taxes.
Our fifth bulletin, for example, showed that while population grew 28% between 2006 and 2016, staff levels grew 44%: an extra 1586 employees. While amendments were passed to reduce staff levels, the results were nowhere close to what would be realized if our proposal to rehire only one employee for every two that leave was adopted. Administration also provided 4% in savings ideas but the few options Council actually supported were obviously outweighed by the increases they voted for, since the draft budget’s 10% increase has risen to an alarming 10.4%.
Riopel concluded by noting that “Council delayed a number of spending decisions and we know other priorities will emerge in coming years. The Edmonton Chamber will continue to remind City Council that enough is enough — they need to dig deeper for savings, just like businesses across Edmonton continue to have to do.”