Richard Gendron is planning to move his business out of Edmonton as soon as the Valley Line LRT opens.
Ad-Mart has a prime spot on 75 Street, just across from where the new elevated Davies Station is being built.
The LRT will bring new exposure, but he won’t be able to afford the taxes. Already, property taxes have nearly doubled since he bought the property in 2008, driven by both an increase in the land value for his distribution centre and the city’s climbing tax rate, he said.
“I’m planning to move,” he continued. “I’ll choose a surrounding municipality … We all have to look
at this very seriously.”
Edmonton’s property tax rate is a big issue for many voters this election.
It was the top concern in a survey Leger Marketing released Wednesday (see story, A9). Thirty-four per cent of the 500 voters contacted picked “reducing the tax burden” as a key focus for the next term.
Anand Pye, executive director of the commercial and industrial developers’ association, said many businesses are worried about taxes.
Non-residential property owners pay taxes at a rate 2.5 times higher than people pay on their homes, rates 65 per cent higher than the average non-residential rate in surrounding counties, according to a report commissioned last year.
And it’s a bill that’s growing. Edmonton’s tax take increased by 35 per cent in the last five years, to $1.5 billion in 2017 from $1.1 billion in 2013.
That’s OK if the business community is growing at the same rate so more businesses contribute, said Pye. But it’s not. In fact, the size of the assessment of the business community shrank in 2016, said Pye.
“It’s definitely a concern,” he said, worried high taxes could encourage businesses to leave, increasing the burden on those who remain.
“That’s what developers are worried about.”
This election, the Edmonton Journal surveyed ward candidates on their budget priorities for the next four-year capital and operating budgets.
Several council candidates called for a tax freeze, including Ward 12 candidate Nigel Logan. He said he’d save money by concentrating growth around transportation nodes.
Ward 2 incumbent Bev Esslinger said freezing taxes seems ideal, but would “freeze our ability to meet the needs of new neighbourhoods,” such as new fire services.
Several incumbents said the 2017 budget increase of 2.9 per cent was the lowest in 10 years. Ward 3 incumbent Dave Loken said council and staff had done a “good job finding ways to create efficiencies.”
Others said council needs to focus on revenue generation. “By not investing more heavily in industry, we’re missing out on big tax dollars,” said Ward 4 candidate Trish Velthuizen.
Some candidates prioritized specific projects. Ward 8 incumbent Ben Henderson listed a small multi-use recreation centre to replace Scona Pool, Ward 5 candidate Miranda Jimmy named the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre, and Ward 6 incumbent Scott McKeen mentioned redoing 105 Avenue in Queen Mary Park.
But keeping taxes low was the biggest theme. Ward 6 candidate Tish Prouse said: “Our seniors can’t afford it, our businesses can’t afford it, and people will eventually leave the city for the bedroom communities.”
Read full comments from the candidates running in your ward and all our coverage at edmontonjournal.com/election.