Edmonton city council chambers.
Ed Kaiser / Ed Kaiser/Postmedia
Edmonton will increase its property tax take by 2.6 per cent in 2019, following a vote by city council Tuesday.That means, based on numbers provided in December, the typical homeowner will pay an extra $65 to the city through their property taxes in 2019. The city uses a property worth $397,000 as its metric.During its four-year budget deliberations in late 2018, council landed on an annual increase of 2.6 per cent through 2020, but each year that number can be reconsidered during supplemental budget debates.But when bills arrive, property owners will actually see a 2.7 per cent increase; the extra tenth of a per cent is based on an estimate of what the province will ask for when it comes calling to collect its education tax for 2019. Updated numbers to reflect what this means for a typical homeowner will be released later Thursday, according to an email from a city spokesperson.Ward 11 Coun. Mike Nickel and Ward 4 Coun. Aaron Paquette were alone in voting against approving the tax increase. After the vote, Paquette said he voted “no” because he was against funding one of the several “emergent” requests approved by council Tuesday.Items on the list included money for securing the land around the Coliseum and Northlands while it awaits demolition, allowing the Art Gallery of Alberta to continue its free admission programs, keeping revitalization work afloat in the Alberta Avenue and Jasper Place neighbourhoods, shouldering the cost of the city taking over enforcement of the Animal Protection Act, funding for Startup Edmonton on-campus efforts to retain student talent for the city, and an additional investment into Enmax’s downtown district energy system.Much of the funding for the one-off expenses came out of the city’s financial stabilization reserve,“It allows us to just balance out lumpy expenditures over a four-year period while ensuring that the stabilization reserve is just used for cash flow,” Mayor Don Iveson said Tuesday after the vote. “We’re dipping into savings a little bit while knowing we’ll have income to pay it back within the four year-cycle.” Paquette said he voted against the property tax increase because he disagreed with funding Startup Edmonton’s request, which he characterized as “nice to have.” Though he voted for funding the downtown district energy system item, he had a lot of reservations about if it was the best thing the city should be doing to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.“Edmontonians deserve the best bang for their buck in every situation, and if we can’t show them and say ‘here’s the numbers,’ then maybe we’re not providing that and we should be taking a second look,” he said.As the property tax votes wrapped up, council also agreed to Iveson’s request for city staff to look into how the municipal tax burden has “shifted” between residential and non-residential property owners in recent years, and to examine how this has affected different types of property, like industrial, office space or retail. The motion also directs staff to propose tools to rebalance any distortions that arise.When he made the request at a public hearing Monday, Iveson said the city has heard “loud and clear” from many warehouse and strip mall owners that their taxes are rising faster than what the city believes is happening, and he’d like to get to the bottom of it.“That tells me that somebody’s taxes are going up faster than everyone else’s. That means someone else’s should be going down to offset it. So what I’ve asked for in this report is an opportunity to look at how the burden is shifting between different types of properties that gain or lose market value faster than the average,” he said.City staff will report back with their research in late email@example.com/paigeeparsons