Why is it that with billions of dollars worth of natural resource royalty surpluses rolling into provincial government coffers, the City of Edmonton has been forced to propose a 10.7% tax increase for 2009?
Special interest groups, like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, may support the easy route of spending cuts, but after a decade of unsustainable zero-percent tax increases and ignoring increasingly deteriorating public infrastructure, Edmonton desperately needs to catch up to its mountain-sized infrastructure backlog. Constant criticism of government spending priorities is critical, but refusing to face growth pressures head on by passing the buck to the next City Council is fiscally irresponsible.
Though it is likely that the increase will actually be lowered by the time the budget is approved, the increase doesn’t include the proposed 4% levy to repair older neighbourhoods. Spending increases also include $11 million for fuel costs and $51 million for higher wages and personnel costs. The increase is also a result of the City’s move to transfer waste management into a utility funded by a user fee rather than a combination of fees and property taxes. According to the Edmonton Journal, “this means a jump in the monthly residential charge to $26.59 from the current $15.17, while taxes for the typical home assessed at $400,000 will drop $52.”
Dealing with the growth pressures created by a booming provincial economy, while not having access to the vast wealth that is endowed to the provincial government, places Alberta’s large urban municipalities in a difficult situation. With former County Reeves Ed Stelmach, Iris Evans, Ray Danyluk, and Jack Hayden gripping Alberta’s land of plenty purse-strings, correcting Alberta’s fiscal imbalance by introducing increased powers and funding to address the financial needs and increase the sustainability of Alberta’s municipalities would go a long way to correcting the fiscal imbalance in this province.