News / Edmonton

City budget: tax hike reduced to 2.85%, arts take hit

As Alberta's tough economy continues to hamper Edmonton, councilors were contained on spending Friday

City hall will now debate the new proposed tax hike, which sits at 2.85 per cent.

Metro File

City hall will now debate the new proposed tax hike, which sits at 2.85 per cent.

Edmonton's arts groups took a hit Friday when city council chose not to fund their endeavours as part of ongoing budget talks. 

But that came with a trade-off — councillors managed to slightly shave the proposed 2017 property tax increase to 2.85 per cent from 3.1 per cent, as they showed restraint in light of Alberta's economy.

That means councillors had to say no to some projects, as they only had $6.55 million in ongoing savings to pay for a variety of priorities – a list worth $11 million.

It was particularly tough for Edmonton’s arts groups — councillors chose not to spend $355,000 on Nuit Blanche, $250,000 for a new “out-of-the-box” city museum, $150,000 for public art conservation and $250,000 for a grant to Art of Living.  

On Nuit Blanche, Coun. Ben Henderson said he was worried the event wouldn't come back to Edmonton without the funds.

But Todd Janes, president of the Nuit Blanche board, said Edmonton can still expect an event in September 2017. What that event will look like is still being determined, he added.

“We understand it’s a tough budgetary time right now,” he said. “But we’re still moving ahead.”

Henderson also strongly advocated for Heritage Council’s city museum, which wouldn’t actually be in a building. Instead, it would have offered tours, screenings and events for Edmontonians to learn more about the city.

Beth Sanders, vice chair of the Heritage Council, said the organization will not proceed with the museum because they were not granted funds from council.

“We respect that decision,” Sanders said, adding the group will continue to do pilots in the city.  

One big winner, though, was End Poverty Edmonton, which received about $1.3 million to launch many projects to get 10,000 residents out of poverty.

Coun. Scott McKeen emotionally pleaded council to support the group. He said it’s easy to ignore poverty when you have a nice home to go to.

“Give these people a chance, please,” he told council. “It’s a tough economy for these folks every year.”

Jane Alexander with End Poverty said she was brought to tears by council's unanimous support. 

"We're just thrilled," she said. "People experiencing homelessness are often overlooked, and we know the situation is urgent right now."

Council also didn’t say no to every arts project. For instance, councillors approved funding the Art Gallery of Alberta, which received $250,000 to explore new projects to get more Edmontonians in the door.

Festivals also got $516,000 for two years to pay for city services, like policing.

The Edmonton Ski Club also got emergency funding of $217,000 for two years so that the hill wouldn’t close.

Council didn’t even debate funding Wicihitowin, which advocates for Edmonton’s indigenous people, so that the group could explore brining the indigenous games to the city. That means Wicihitowin was a no-go.

Council will return on Tuesday to debate the 2.85 per cent tax hike.  

Here’s a list of the winners and losers.

The winners:

  • Art Gallery of Alberta
  • Combative Sports Commission
  • Edmonton conventions and tourism meetings
  • River Valley Alliance
  • Edmonton Ski Club
  • Festivals in terms of covering civic costs
  • Nikaniw, group for indigenous youth leadership
  • End Poverty Edmonton
  • Edmonton screen industries
  • Development incentives for industrial parks
  • Community Development Corporation
  • TrackTownCanada – bid for 2020 worlds junior
  • Annexation project

The losers:

  • Art of Living – grant for festival base
  • Public art conservation
  • Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues
  • City museum
  • Nuit Blanche Edmonton
  • Wicihitowin
  • Modernizing Edmonton parking
  • Electric vehicle charging stations on private land

Initiatves that need more planning:

  • Ciclovia festival
  • U of A Ice Arena Project

More on