Mayor Sohi says Edmonton is being ‘shortchanged’ by province in letter to Alberta premier

Without the province’s help, Sohi suggested higher property taxes could be on the way

Edmonton’s mayor says if the Alberta government has concerns about the city’s finances the province should give them more money.

For instance, immediately paying $60 million in back property taxes to 2019 on the government’s buildings in the capital city, after a change to the grants in lieu of taxes program, would pay off a projected deficit immediately, he told reporters at city hall.

Without the province’s help, Sohi suggested higher property taxes could be on the way.

Sohi said Edmonton is being “shortchanged” and not getting its fair share “and that is where we will continue to push and demand equity.”

In the letter, he also called on the province to revisit the Local Government Fiscal Framework to cover municipalities’ infrastructure deficits, refund $2.2 million Edmonton paid for Alberta Health Service’s shigella response, review police funding models, resume paying for police DNA testing which costs Edmonton $5 million a year, and better fund emergency medical services because the gap costs Edmonton $28 million annually.

“Provincial cuts and downloading impact every municipality in Alberta, but are especially challenging in Edmonton,” Sohi said in a written statement Tuesday. “Edmonton’s unique circumstances and the current funding allocation formulas mean Alberta’s capital city is not receiving appropriate or equitable provincial funding to support our rapidly growing municipality.”

‘On standby to help’: Smith

Such a move would be unprecedented in Edmonton. Interventions by the provincial government into the workings of municipalities are extremely rare in Alberta’s history.

Responding to questions about those revelations, Smith told reporters later Wednesday morning if the provincial government were to intervene it would not take such a step lightly and the city may be able to work out its own problems.

“No one has stepped in, no one has intervened, no one is doing an audit, no one is taking any extraordinary measures, but if they need our help then we are ready and on standby to help,” Smith said at the time.

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley called Smith’s suggestion a “campaign of fear and smear,” saying the UCP government has targeted city councils it disagrees with politically.

Edmonton has a projected deficit of around $50 million for 2024. But details of the city’s finances are already scheduled for review at the upcoming annual spring budget update meeting, which is public.

A city official previously told Postmedia Edmonton lost $13.2 million revenue in 2023, equivalent to a 0.7 per cent tax increase, because the Alberta government pulled back on paying grants in lieu of property taxes on its buildings in the capital city,

More to come …

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