This has been a busy year for Edmonton and City Council. From major infrastructure projects to local community issues, we’ve accomplished lots this year. Below is an update on some of the key projects I’ve been a part of in 2016.
City Council has just completed its 2017 supplemental budget deliberations. We’re entering the second year of our three-year Operating and Utilities budgets, and the third year of our four-year Capital budget. While these budgets are set in advance, Council has the opportunity to make adjustments each fall, which allows us to be responsive, promote more long range budgeting and enhance efficiency.
When we passed the Operating budget last year, we forecasted a property tax increase of 3.4 per cent for 2017. Since then, Administration has implemented a number of cost saving measures allowing Council to recommend a property tax adjustment of 3.1 per cent. I then put forward a motion to allocate $6.55 million of the funding available to Council to lower the 2017 tax levy. That motion passed unanimously, resulting in a property tax rate of 2.85 per cent.
Of the 2.85 per cent increase, 0.7 per cent will go to maintain and add city services. 1.5 per cent is dedicated to the Neighbourhood Renewal program, which restores old roads and sidewalks in mature neighbourhoods. Lastly, 0.6 per cent goes to the construction of the Valley Line LRT, which is set to be completed in 2020.
I’m always looking for ways to reduce the property tax burden on residents while still providing exemplary services and planning for the future, which is why I voted against funding most of the projects presented to Council in the supplemental budget process last week. Many of these projects are worthwhile, but in our current economic climate I believe we have a responsibility to keep property taxes as low as possible.
More information on the City’s Operating budget is available at yegcitybudget.ca.
Edmonton Police Service
As one of the Council representatives on the Edmonton Police Commission, I’ve been actively engaged in policing issues this year. One of the most critical issues is the rising cost of policing in Edmonton. While some growth is natural as more people move to Edmonton, we’ve seen a nine per cent increase in per person spending since 2012, up to $348.31 per person based on the third quarter budget projections.
It’ll take more time and evaluation by the Commission to identify the factors driving these rising costs. EPS’ third quarter data shows violent crimes are down, but property crimes are up, which is what we would expect during an economic decline.
As a city representative on the Northlands’ Board, 2016 has been a busy year. Council has requested four pieces of work from Administration to help plan for the future of Northlands.
The first is an Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP). Administration expects to have the plan completed within 18 months.
The second is a governance review of both the Expo and Shaw Conference Centres to identify how both facilities could be more effective.
The third piece will examine the Northlands agriculture initiative Feed, to find intersections with the City’s food and agriculture strategy fresh. A report on options for collaboration will come before Council next February.
The fourth piece, and of chief interest to the public, is the Coliseum transformation. Northlands originally proposed transforming the space into six sheets of ice for community and junior hockey uses. But we felt more consultation with the community was needed before moving forward.
When I began my term on Council, I took a lead role in the city’s business initiative, now called Emerging Economies. Since then, I’ve worked with countless community stakeholders and businesses to examine the needs of our entrepreneurial community.
In September, we launched the Edmonton Made pilot program. Led by Edmonton’s Economic Development Corporation, this program aims to provide the best possible environment for local entrepreneurs.
The program’s had a successful start with more than 530 businesses are participating in the initiative. I look forward to creating new opportunities for innovation and access to resources for local entrepreneurs in the new year.
Open Window Initiative
The City’s Open Window Initiative, launched in June, provides guidance to Edmonton’s small business community on how best to tackle applications and development approval processes.
The program has already helped more than 330 businesses navigate the permits and licensing process. I expect the program will continue to grow in 2017. Operating out of the new Edmonton Tower, we’ll be able to provide even better service to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Program and Service Review
The City of Edmonton has started a comprehensive review of its programs and services based on a motion I made with Mayor Iveson last year. The review will ensure our work is relevant, effective, efficient and evolving to meet emerging needs.
Over the course of 2016, a small team was set up to take on this work, starting with three pilot reviews: fire public safety, summer and winter road maintenance and mail services.
As we near the end of 2016, those three pilot reviews are wrapping up and will be presented to Executive Committee in early 2017. Seven additional pilot reviews will begin in new year.