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Edmonton council suspends increase to neighbourhood renewal levy

Suspending the levy increase will save the typical homeowner $27 in property taxes

Mayor Don Iveson got council backing Tuesday for a motion to suspend an increase to the neighbourhood renewal levy for two years.

Mayor Don Iveson got council backing Tuesday for a motion to suspend an increase to the neighbourhood renewal levy for two years. (CBC)

 

Property owners won't pay more for neighbourhood renewal for the next two years, but city staff promised Tuesday that all neighbourhoods in line for reconstruction will still be finished on time.

Council voted unanimously to suspend an increase to the neighbourhood renewal levy for 2016 and 2017 to bring the tax increase down by 1.5 per cent.

The mayor pitched the idea as a way to ease the overall property tax increase during tough economic times. Councillors agreed, but only after receiving several assurances from city staff that construction would not slow down.

"This is one of the toughest budget debates we're probably going to have," Coun. Ben Henderson. "I think given the climate of these next few years … this seems to me the best balance."

Suspending the levy increase will save the typical homeowner $27 in property taxes in 2016. Mayor Don Iveson said small businesses will save even more.

The program will be funded with provincial grants next year, and the city will work to find the money for 2017.

"We're not compromising the funding over the next two years," said chief financial officer Todd Burge.

Burge said there is a risk that council won't be able to find the funds by 2017. He said council can decide to reinstate the levy increase if the money isn't freed up.

Coun. Mike Nickel said he's confident the city will find the savings because the economic downturn has made construction cheaper.  

Tough decisions to come

Many things will have to be left out of the budget for council to meet its goal of limiting the tax increase to 3.5 per cent.

Councillors created a $22-million wish list of items they would like to add for 2016, but they have only $10 million available to allocate.

"There's certainly more proposals on the table than money available, but I don't for a minute think that all of the motions will pass," Iveson said.

The wish list includes everything from new police officers to literacy initiatives and improved snow removal.

"Council as a whole really understands the need to show some restraint with this budget," Iveson said.

Councillors are expected to make spending decisions this week.

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