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Edmonton community groups request more funds from 2023-2026 budget

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Ten community organizations stressed to Edmonton city council why they should get more money at 2023-2026 budget talks Thursday at city hall.

The groups included Explore Edmonton, Fort Edmonton Park and Edmonton Arts Council and the asks range from $1 million to tens of million dollars.

With a proposed tax hikes of four per cent every year for the next four years, ward Anirniq coun. Erin Rutherford said it’s a daunting task.

“We are dealing with a finite budget right now and even looking at our own funding, we are going to struggle to fund everything we want to,” Rutherford said.

About two per cent of the tax increase will go to maintaining existing services.

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Rutherford said this tough budget was one of the reasons she felt compelled to run.

“I could foresee how difficult this was going to be, and I was really concerned about austerity measures, cuts that really hurt people and the services that they need.”

The operating budget covers day-to-day expenses such as maintaining roads, pathways and public transit, staff wages, budgets for Edmonton Fire Rescue Services and the Edmonton Police Service, and operating facilities such as rec centres, parks and other city properties.

The city said the proposed operating budget balances the needs and wants of Edmontonians within the current economic uncertainty, high inflation, rising costs, reduced revenues and pandemic recovery.

It calls for annual revenues and expenditures to range from $3.2 billion in 2023 to $3.5 billion in 2026.

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Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi was on council from 2007 to 2015 (before leaving municipal politics to become a federal MP) and said this budget is tight.

The community groups made their case Thursday and on Friday, the police commission will be presenting.

Read more: City of Edmonton staff proposes modest $7.75B capital budget for 2023-2026

Police are asking for an additional $10 million to their $407-million budget for health streets operation centre, amongst other things.

The mayor said the police budget has never been decreased — it has always gone up.

“When I look back from 2010 to 2022, the police budget has gone up 60 per cent,” Sohi said.

Sohi said police officers go beyond their duty to serve Edmontonians, and do an excellent job in protecting the city’s communities.

“We have to make sure they are continued to be supported, but at the same time we have other services that need to be funded — from public transit to fire rescue, community services to housing, and attacking climate change,” Sohi said.

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After the police commission presentation, budget deliberations will begin.

Read more: Edmonton projecting $67.8M budget surplus for 2022

Councillors will make motions to fund the requests, or make cuts. Budget deliberations are scheduled to go until Dec. 16.

— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News