Coming up at City Council: September 7-11, 2015

Monday is a holiday so the public hearing will take place on Tuesday and the Council meeting has been pushed to Wednesday. It looks like it’s going to be a finance-heavy week!

Untitled

On Friday the City announced a new proposed Vehicle for Hire Bylaw, intended to give companies like Uber a way to operate legally. You can download the PDF to read here and be sure to fill out this survey by September 10 with your feedback. The results will be presented along with the bylaw at Executive Committee on September 16.

And tomorrow, Sunday, September 6, the Metro Line LRT will finally open to the public. It’s not going to be operating as expected, with slower trains, manual signals, and big delays, but it’s a start.

Meetings this week

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

Projected Year-End Operating Financial Results

As of June 30, 2015, the City is projecting a loss of $10.6 million for the year, or 0.4% of the overall expense budget. This is being blamed on higher than expected costs for snow removal, pothole repair, and vehicle maintenance, plus greater than expected losses on tax appeals and other tax adjustments. It could have been worse though, as the City has saved a lot on fuel costs across the board and also on personnel due to the delay of the Metro Line LRT which delayed hirings.

Under the heading “potential impacts to be monitored”, the report highlights the following:

  • Police Association and Senior Police Officers Association contracts expired last year and are currently under negotiation.
  • Snow and ice control costs are weather-dependent and difficult to predict.
  • Fluctuating fuel costs have historically impacted results, even though the City buys half its annual fuel at a fixed price.
  • The exchange rate could make parts for vehicle maintenance more expensive.
  • The general economic downturn could have an impact.

Here are the Municipal and Consumer Price Index projections:

price index updates

For an update on inflation, employment, and other economic indicators in Edmonton, check out this report.

Reserves

As required by City Policy C217B, Administration is currently reviewing the City’s reserve and equity accounts, with a report to be presented to Council in October. The last review was completed in October 2012. Our current or year-end projected reserve balances are as follows:

  • Financial Stabilization Reserve – $90.9 million
  • Current Planning Reserve – $28 million
  • Traffic Safety & Automated Enforcement Reserve – $25.3 million

CRL Updates

From the report: “Community Revitalization Levy revenue and/or expense variances may change throughout the year as work progresses and financial impacts become more certain.” Here’s the status of our three CRLs:

  • The Belvedere CRL is projected to end 2015 with a deficit of $0.4 million and a cumulative deficit balance, since inception, of $5.8 million. It’s not expected to have an annual positive net position until 2023.
  • The Downtown CRL is projected to end 2015 with a deficit of $4.6 million and a cumulative deficit balance, since inception, of $8.2 million. The Downtown CRL is expected to have an annual positive net position from 2019 onward, but we’ll still be playing catchup until 2022.
  • The Quarters CRL is projected to end 2015 with a surplus of $3 million and a cumulative deficit balance, since inception, of $5.9 million. The report says the Quarters CRL is “performing better than forecast” in the original plan, and should be in a positive position as of 2024.

You can learn more about CRLs here.

Debt Update

There was a lot of discussion about Edmonton’s municipal debt during the municipal election back in 2013, which I wrote about here. At the time, our debt stood at about $2.2 billion or 53.4% of the MGA-allowed debt limit.

According to the latest figures, Edmonton’s debt currently sits at just over $2.9 billion and is expected to top $3 billion by the end of the year, which would be 59.3% of the MGA-allowed debt limit. Our debt servicing, which includes annual principal and interest repayments, is expected to reach 33% of the allowed limit for the year. The City has set more conservative limits than the MGA does:

“For 2015, debt servicing is projected to be 53.6% of the debt service limit for all borrowing and 70.6% of the limit for tax-supported operations, as defined under the City’s policy.”

The report notes that “the percentage of the debt servicing limit utilized increased significantly in 2015 and will increase again in 2017 due to the repayment of $60 million of short-term borrowing in each of 2015 and 2017.” Those repayments are for $120 million that was borrowed to fast-track capital expenditures for projects that were ultimately funded through MSI or the provincial fuel tax.

Capital Finance Update

This report provides an update on financial results for the first six months of the 2015-2018 Capital Budget. Because we’re so early still in the four-year plan, most projects should be on-time and on-budget. The approved budget value is $7.9 billion, which includes carry-forward from 2014 and approved expenditures beyond 2018. The City has 448 active profiles with planned expenditures in this budget cycle.

As of June 30, 2015, the six month spend was $321.6 million. Of the 85 significant capital projects identified (meaning they have costs greater than $20 million), 77 have been classified as green, two are categorized as yellow and 6 are flagged as red.

You can see the complete breakdown of project status here, but I’ve summarized the high profile ones as follows, sorted by size of budget:

Project Status Planned Completion Projected Completion Approved Budget
Valley Line LRT Green December 2020 December 2020 $1.8 billion
Metro Line LRT Red April 2014 September 20151 $665.8 million
Blatchford Redevelopment Green December 2038 December 2038 $631.9 million
Downtown Arena Green December 2017 September 2016 $605 million
Neighbourhood Renewal Green Annually Annually ~$452 million
Westwood Transit Garage Yellow December 2017 March 2018 $201.5 million
Walterdale Bridge Red December 2015 December 2017 $154.8 million
Northwest Police Campus Yellow December 2017 March 2018 $106.9 million
River Valley Alliance Projects Red December 2014 December 2017 $76.1 million
41 Avenue/QEII Interchange Green Fall 2015 Fall 2015 $72.5 million (City)
$205 million (total)
Milner Library Renewal Green December 2018 December 2018 $62.5 million
Great Neighbourhoods Red December 2018 March 2020 $60.4 million
The Quarters Phase 1 Green December 2015 September 2015 $52.1 million
The Quarters Phase 2 Green December 2018 September 2018 $43.2 million
102 Avenue Bridge Red December 2015 October 2016 $32.0 million

1 – Yes the Metro Line technically opens tomorrow, but it’s not what we were expecting.

Committee Recommendations

Recommendations that have come forward from Committee include:

Bylaws

There are a number of bylaws on both agendas. Here are a few highlights:

  • Bylaw 17298 makes amendments to the Community Standards Bylaw regarding backyard fire pit use, and is ready for three readings.
  • Bylaw 17297 makes amendments to the Public Places Bylaw to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes, and is ready for three readings.
  • Bylaw 17353 makes amendments to the Procedures and Committees Bylaw to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision prohibiting prayer at Council meetings.
  • Bylaw 17361 would rezone the property at 10349 122 Street NW in Oliver from RA7 to DC2, to allow for high density, mixed-use development. Plans call for an 11 storey residential building. I hope they don’t interfere with the beautiful boulevard trees on that street.
  • Bylaw 17347 would allow for the development of a grocery store at 403 McConachie Way NW.
  • Bylaw 17359 would rezone the property at 13218 102 Avenue NW in Glenora from RF1 to RF2, to allow for the existing house to be replaced with three new single detached homes. A notice was sent to surrounding property owners and the Glenora Community League, and in response the City received 8 letters and 23 emails of concerns and opposition. Such is the state of infill in Edmonton.

Other interesting items

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s