There’s some uneasiness at City Hall on future budgets, on account of the economy not performing as well as it has in the past. Council will get some black and white numbers in November when the budget is reviewed, but some warning signals were given Tuesday when they reviewed the mid year figures.
“There’s issues moving ahead that are probably going to be fairly significant economically that we’re going to have to manage our way through,” said chief financial officer Todd Burge. “While I think I have an idea of what kind of revenue impacts those might be, we’re seeing it with transit today, other cities are seeing the same thing, we just don’t know how significant this is going to be.”
Council was told that transit is taking a bit of a hit because riders are buying single fare trips, instead of monthly passes because not as many are regularly going to work on a daily basis as they would have in the past.
Mayor Don Iveson thinks Edmonton as a whole is still in good shape. “I mean there’s no doubt that there are businesses and families that are struggling with the lower commodity price but overall we continue to see growth in jobs, we continue to see an influx of people so we have a competitive labour market. All those things continue to be attractive for investment so I wouldn’t count Edmonton out that easily.”
However council’s fiscal hawk thinks we’re in for two to three years of a rough ride. Coun. Mike Nickel said he’s worried about property assessment downtown taking a hit as “A level” office space comes on line in the next few years in the Stantec Tower, as well as the City of Edmonton Building that Daryl Katz has developed.
“What’s going to happen to all of that “B” space? That rent’s going to drop. So market value assessment is going to drop. How bad is it going to be? Don’t know. Carbon tax — they’re talking about dropping on I think ten cents come January, so what’s the net effect on that? And on and on the list goes. Blatchford — we could talk about the shortfall of $24 million due to delayed sales. It’s all over the map.”
Council has heard that the Fort McMurray fire has had a $700,000 impact on Northlands operations due to lost opportunity costs when evacuees had to be housed in the Expo Centre. The city is working with the province to get that money recovered, although there are no clear answers on a policy about opportunity costs. Two events in the Expo Centre had to be cancelled. One was moved on 24 hours notice to the Shaw Conference Centre, and the other was cancelled.
Council will get a budget update in November.