Election Primer: Property taxes a burden for business, but a boon for city programs
Property taxes are a perpetual election issue in Edmonton
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If there’s one election issue that never goes away, it’s property tax.
It’s a year-round topic of discussion that came in second place in Metro’s reader poll of election issues that matter to Edmontonians.
Property taxes are perpetually inching upwards in Edmonton, but voters got a slight reprieve this year with the smallest increase in a decade.
City council initially projected a 3.1 per cent increase, but they shaved it down to 2.7 per cent by spring.
Some feel any increase is too much, however, and several council candidates have called for a freeze on property taxes.
For business owners in a slowly recovering economy, their concerns are compounded, as businesses pay 2.5 times what residents do and usually take up more space.
“Even a small increase ends up costing quite a lot,” said Anand Pye, executive director of Edmonton’s commercial real estate development association NAIOP.
Pye said a report commissioned by the association last year showed the tax burden of non-residential to residential properties is 65 per cent higher in Edmonton than the rest of the region, and 33 per cent higher than Calgary.
He said some business owners are leaving the city as a result.
Of course, cutting property taxes doesn’t come without its own price.
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 on a list worth $11 million.
This year was particularly tough for Edmonton’s arts groups, with Nuit Blanche and other projects getting rejected.
This year's increase was slated to pay for neighbourhood renewal (1.5 per cent), the Valley Line LRT (0.6 per cent) and operations (0.75 per cent).
The city will collect about $2 billion in property taxes, $1.5 billion in municipal taxes and $0.5 billion in provincial education taxes. The funds pay for things like police, fire, roadway maintenance and public transit.
According to the city, the owners of a typical single-family home assessed at $397,000 was slated to pay $3,378 this year.
Officials said in spring that the city was looking at a five per cent increase in 2018 but staff were working to bring that number down.
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