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Edmonton city council looks to trim fat in 2023-2026 budget

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton looks to trim fat in 2023-2026 operating budget'
City of Edmonton looks to trim fat in 2023-2026 operating budget
The City of Edmonton is looking for savings, trying reduce the operating budget by $15 million every year from 2023 to 2026 and return it to the tax levy. Nicole Stillger has more – Jan 25, 2023

The City of Edmonton began the process of finding $60 million in savings in its 2023-2026 operating budget Wednesday after council directed staff to find ways to save during deliberations in December.

City manager Andre Corbould told council during a meeting Wednesday there will also be a shuffle of $240 million towards the budget items council wants to see funded.

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‘I think it’s going to be a real sticker shock’: reaction to Edmonton city council’s approved budget

Corbould described a three-pronged approach to the process: reduce, reallocate and report.

To reduce, staff will work to find savings in the budget. Council cut $60 million from the operating budget during deliberations and now staff will have to deliver on that by finding efficiencies.

To reallocate, Corbould said council will need to identify priorities and if any funds can be moved around or leveraged from other levels of government.

For reporting, staff will return to council with a monthly report on how the process is going.

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Corbould presented a few ways council and staff can try to trim fat. The changes will mostly come from the operating budget, but Corbould said he’s open to looking at the capital budget too.

“I’m not as worried about the $60 million because I think I’ll find that in administrative efficiencies,” said Corbould.

“But I think the $240 million is where I’ll need council’s help in coming up with ideas for things we can transition.”

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The councillors will define “core services” by asking if it is required under legislation, like the Occupational Health and Safety Act; if it’s practically necessary, like recreation and culture; if it’s related to a council priority like economic growth and community safety; and if it’s within municipal jurisdiction to change.

Then, they will consider transitioning funds towards those core services.

Staff will also look at city services to see if there are ways to raise revenue by adding or increasing fares.

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Another way to cut down spending is by tightening the purse strings a bit, Corbould said.

“We’re going to do this very thoughtfully, but the kind of things like travel and hosting will be considered as they’re related to key activities,” he said.

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Corbould said the city will also take a look at hiring practices to save cash.

“I’m going to start a process where we look at and manage vacancies … recruitments will be carefully considered and only those which are mission-critical will proceed,” he said, adding that this is not a “hiring freeze” and there will not be a slow-down in hiring in key, front-line positions.

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Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said it’s too early in the process to tell how Edmontonians will be effected, but that staff and council will try to minimize front-line impact as much as possible.

This is a very preliminary conversation that we had today, but I want to assure Edmontonians that our goal is to improve public services. This is not about austerity,” he said.

“This is about making life better and affordable.”

Councillors will revisit this process on Feb. 22 when they define what a “core service” is.

Corbould said cost-saving measures will be implemented as soon as possible.

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