Edmonton city council approves property tax increase for homeowners, decrease for business

Edmonton homeowners will see their property taxes go up while businesses will get a break on theirs as the result of a vote at a city council meeting on Wednesday.

Councillors voted 9-4 in favour of raising residential property taxes to 2.5 per cent and freezing property taxes for non-residential ratepayers. The justification for raising taxes on homeowners was to help out struggling businesses.

De facto, however, businesses will actually see their taxes decrease. City council voted to approve using the portion of taxes it collects for the provincial education budget to offset part of the taxes paid by non-residential ratepayers. The move amounts to a two per cent decrease in taxes for businesses.

Councillors Aaron Paquette, Mike Nickel, Andrew Knack and Moe Banga voted against the tax changes.

Coun. Paquette said he does not believe anybody’s taxes should go up right now.

“That’s just the reality of hard times.”

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Coun. Ben Henderson said he believes the changes were necessary to help the city begin an economic recovery.

“I’m focused on the recovery piece of the puzzle,” he said. “With the limited tools we have on taxation, by doing this slight change and a slight revision, we’re making the choice that gives us the best opportunity from a recovery point of view.”

Coun. Sarah Hamilton agreed with Henderson.

“When you’re looking at a numbers, whether it’s from the Chamber of Commerce or Edmonton Global… we could potentially see very high business default rates,” she said. “I think it’s to our benefit to try and route that as best we can.”

Wednesday’s vote took place because earlier this week, Mayor Don Iveson put forward a motion – that was later passed – calling for the city’s administration to prepare two versions of the tax requisition bylaws for Wednesday’s council meeting. The motion was part of an effort to lower the previously approved 2.08 per cent tax increase for 2020 to accommodate citizens and businesses that are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We happen to have some unprecedented education tax relief available that allows us to do that on a one-time basis,” Iveson said.

Henderson suggested Edmontonians need to keep the big picture in mind when it comes to the changes approved Wednesday.

“When you look at the pressures that are going to be on even the residential taxpayer from the full effect of property tax, which is both the education portion and our portion, there is no increase this year,” he said.

“The average homeowner is not going to see an increase in the cheque they have to cut.”

More to come…

–With files from 630 CHED’s Scott Johnston


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