Coming up at City Council: April 18-22, 2016

It should be an interesting week at Council with the controversial Mezzo project in Old Strathcona, an update on the 2016-2018 Operating Budget and property tax increases, an analysis of the snow removal program, a new marketing plan for the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, and many other topics on the agenda.

City Hall

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

2016-2018 Supplementary Operating Budget Adjustment

Council approved its first multi-year operating budget in December 2015 and this report provides an update and recommended adjustments now that assessment growth has been finalized. Here’s the overall result:

“With the approval of the recommendations including adjustments in Attachment 1, the average percentage increase of the combined municipal and education residential property tax for 2016 would be 2.8% (2.2% increase for services and 0.6% increase for Valley Line LRT). In 2017 the property tax increase would be 3.0% (2.4% increase for services and 0.6% increase for Valley Line LRT) and in 2018 the property tax increase would be 4.6% (2.6% increase for services, 1.4% increase for Neighbourhood Renewal, and 0.6% increase for Valley Line LRT).”

That compares to 3.4% in each of 2016 and 2017 and 4.8% in 2018 as originally approved.

Here are some other highlights from the report:

  • “The increase in tax revenue available from growth over what was approved in the 2016 interim budget is $5.7 million.”
  • “Transit fare revenue is forecasted to be $2.3 million less than the approved budget, mainly as a result of fewer rides due to the economic slowdown.”
  • “The debt servicing costs have been revised to reflect the most current forecasted capital project cash flows and results in the Corporate Expenditure budget decreasing by $0.3 million in 2016, $2.3 million in 2017 and increasing by $1 million in 2018.”
  • “Approval of the adjustments will result in operating budgets for tax-supported operations budgets having revenues and expenditures of $2,559,813,000 in 2016, $2,603,522,000 in 2017, and $2,736,309,000 in 2018.”
  • Updated economic forecasts have resulted in a recommended decrease in revenue for the Belvedere CRL, but an increase for the Downtown and Quarters CRLs.
  • Using the new funding formula, approved funding for EPS will be $322,995,000 in 2016, $335,284,000 in 2017, and $350,113,000 in 2018.

The resulting recommendation is that the 2016 tax levy budget be increased by $5,654,000.

Analysis of Snow Removal Program

It might seem a little odd to be talking about snow removal given the winter we just had, but you know the snow is going to come back with a vengeance next year. This report looks at the main factors that affect snow and ice removal and reviews the efficiency of the program.

So one of the first questions is, how much snow do we typically get? It’s easy to remember: 1-2-3 (about 123 cm annually).

“In an average winter, the city receives 120 cm of snow and there are 11 “snow events” (snowfalls significant enough to require that clearing activities take place).”

snow removal analysis

The next question is, how much do we spend on snow and ice removal?

“The Snow and Ice Control budget has varied substantially over the past decade, ranging from $28 million in 2006 to $61 million in 2015. Actual expenditures have ranged from $35 million (2007) to $74 million (2014) over the same period. In seven of the last ten years, the program’s budget has not covered costs, and nearly $75 milllion has been drawn from the Financial Stabilization Reserve to make up the deficit.”

snow removal analysis

Administration suggests that weather variability, changing service levels, and operational practices and constraints are the three main factors in how much our city spends on snow and ice removal. The number of snow events, the amount of snow that falls, the amount of snowpack that the policy has required, and relying on the private sector to plow major routes are all considerations.

snow removal analysis

The City says it is getting better at snow removal:

“The City’s effectiveness and efficiency in snow and ice control operations (success meeting policy) has improved in the last three years. During the 2013-2014 winter the arterial clearing policy was met 50% of the time, while during the 2014-2015 winter the policy was met 85% of the time. During the 2015-2016 winter season the Snow and Ice Control Policy has been met 100% of the time (note this is only based in one major snow storm).”

But obviously it would be better to avoid having to dip into the stabilization reserve:

“In order to reduce reliance on the Financial Stabilization Reserve, Administration recommends a five year balance window where the Snow and Ice Control budget puts back in the Financial Stabilization Reserve the equivalent amount that it uses during high expenditure years.”

snow removal analysis

While the summer and winter road maintenance programs will all be reviewed as part of the full service review, Administration is not recommending any adjustments to the Snow and Ice Control Budget at this time.

Edmonton Waste Management Centre Marketing Update

In the last quarter of 2015, “a comprehensive marketing plan” was developed for the Waste Management Centre by an external consultant and a full-time marketing and client relations position was filled in November.

“A new visual identity and brand for the Edmonton Waste Management Centre is being developed in alignment with the City’s new visual identity program as part of the marketing plan. The focus will be on positioning the Edmonton Waste Management Centre as a community asset and point of pride. The Edmonton Waste Management Centre is committed to environmental stewardship and customer service, and these two benefits will feature prominently in the Centre’s brand.”

The report notes that “Edmonton’s waste management system is highly regarded” and that “residents ranked waste services in the top three of 24 civic services (along with fire rescue and parks) in combined high importance and high level of satisfaction” in last year’s civic services survey.

The financial impact of the marketing plan, both in terms of costs and targets, will be discussed with Council in private.

Other interesting items

  • Bylaws 17620 and 17621 would amend the Strathcona ARP and approve zoning for the proposed 16 storey building in Old Strathcona known as Mezzo. David Staples wrote that the project is “unusual, unsettling even” but also “essential if Old Strathcona isn’t going to start going downhill in the face of stiff competition.”
  • In response to a question about overtime during the 2016-2018 budget deliberations, a new report says that after a review, Administration “does not support creating additional permanent full-time Full-Time Equivalents as a strategy to reduce overtime expenditures and create net labour savings.”
  • The spring Capital Budget update for Utility Services proposes an overall decrease of $400,000 which works out to a potential utility rate decrease of 4 cents on the typical monthly residential bill.
  • Community Services Committee has recommended that Mayor Iveson, in partnership with Alberta Status of Women, “write a letter to United Nations Women requesting Edmonton’s membership to the Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces program.”
  • Transportation Committee has recommended that “permit fees for road use, set up and usage of City owned roadway barricades, be waived for block parties within the city, and that the corresponding budget revenues be adjusted accordingly.” Hooray for free block parties!
  • Executive Committee referred the analysis of maintaining, moving, or preserving the Graphic Arts Building and the Artery without a recommendation. Should be a lively discussion.
  • Bylaw 17590 would designate the William Lowes Residence at 9837 84 Avenue NW as a Municipal Historic Resource.
  • Bylaw 17104 would designate the Cameron Block at 10543 97 Street NW as a Municipal Historic Resource.
  • Bylaw 17571 will authorize the City to borrow $14,598,000 to widen Whitemud Drive from 40 Street to 17 Street.

Wrap-up

You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.