Ask Me About the Budget: Session 1 with Financial Services and Utilities and the Edmonton Public Library

Ask Me About the Budget: Session 1 with Financial Services and Utilities and the Edmonton Public Library

Now is your chance to ask one or more of Edmonton’s senior managers about the City budget, and the programs and services the City provides.  

Do you have questions about how the City manages its finances, the drainage and waste utilities and the library system? Post your questions here, and on Wednesday, November 18, we’ll have senior managers from City departments answering those questions live during one of a series of “Ask Me About the Budget” sessions. This is the first in a series of five sessions on the budget.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015, noon-1pm. Ask Me About the Budget: Session 1 with ​Financial Services and Utilities, and Edmonton Public Library

The Financial Services and Utilities department manages the City’s finances and the two utilities – Drainage Services and Waste Management Services.

The work done here includes:

  • managing the City’s investment portfolio
  • budget planning
  • economic analysis
  • property assessment
  • property taxes
  • sewer system
  • flood prevention programs
  • garbage collection and recycling
  • eco stations
  • one of the world’s leading waste management centres
Answering your questions about this part of the City’s work will be Todd Burge, Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and General Manager of Financial Services and Utilities.

Answering your questions about this part of the City’s work will be Todd Burge, Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and General Manager of Financial Services and Utilities.

The Edmonton Public Library is the city’s largest lender of all manner of information and entertainment – music, movies, books, magazines and even a maker space.That content is delivered everywhere – in branches around the city, to computers at home and work, and on handheld devices elsewhere. EPL offers a multitude of fun programs in-branch: online training, streaming music, guest speakers and so much more – and it’s all free with your library card.

Answering your questions about this part of the City’s work will be Pilar Martinez. She is the Chief Executive Officer of the Edmonton Public Library, where she is responsible for leading EPL in providing services to library users.

Answering your questions about this part of the City’s work will be Pilar Martinez. She is the Chief Executive Officer of the Edmonton Public Library, where she is responsible for leading EPL in providing services to library users.

You can check out the City’s proposed budgets in a number of different forms:

Submit your questions on this blog, now and in the days to come, for Financial Services and Utilities and the Edmonton Public Library . We’ll be publishing the questions and posting live responses during the lunch hour on November 18, 2015. Join us then for a live, interactive question and answer session.

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23 Comments
  1. Michelle V
    1 year ago

    I like the idea of a free library card for all users of the library system, but I’m wondering about how much revenue is lost and does EPL make up for that revenue loss with other library revenue sources? Or are the free cards made up for with property taxes?

  2. Michelle V
    1 year ago

    I’m worried about the severe rain storms we can get now because of climate change, and the ability of our sewer system to cope. How much of my utility fee goes toward upgrading the system to cope with the storms of the future? Are you charging us enough?

  3. Daniel
    1 year ago

    My questions are for two areas:
    1. How much waste still goes to landfill from Edmonton homes? and Why not have separate bags (clear) for compostables as part of education campaign and to be more efficient for sorters at the Waste Centre?

    2. How much does the library spend on new print books per year, DVD movies and DVD for music? And how much does the EPL get in fines every year?

  4. Thomas J
    1 year ago

    How long before you stop flooding in Millwoods? Is the living wall working?

    Also, why do you assess my house based on market value – that is not what I plan to sell. And what about my neighbor who is a senior with no income but pays same tax as me.

    Finally for EPL how much is the mobile van program and where do they go?

  5. Gayleen Froese
    1 year ago

    Why do I have a surcharge on my property tax, each year, for alley lighting that doesn’t exist? Did you maybe cancel some kind of crime prevention program and then forget you cancelled it?

  6. City of Edmonton
    1 year ago

    Welcome to this first in a series of five sessions we’re holding on the City’s budget and the programs and services the City provides. We are holding these live, blogging sessions as part of the public discussions we are having on the proposed 2016-18 Operating and Utilities budgets. City Council will be making decisions on those budgets at the end of November and beginning of December. This is one opportunity we are providing for concerned residents to ask your questions or express your thoughts about the City’s financial priorities.

    With us today are two senior managers with the City of Edmonton: Todd Burge, who is the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer and General Manager of the Financial Services and Utilities department and Pilar Martinez, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Edmonton Public Library.

    Here’s how our live blog session works. You can ask your questions by commenting on this blog post in the section below. We’ll take a look at your question and then prepare an answer for you right away. We’ll take as many questions as we can over the next hour. Any questions we don’t get to, we’ll do our best to answer them in the next little while.

    So have you got your texting/typing fingers ready? Get ready to ask away at today’s Ask Me About the Budget: Session 1 with Todd Burge and Pilar Martinez.

  7. Todd Burge
    1 year ago

    Hi Gayleen, That’s a good question. It sounds like a Local Improvement Levy on your property tax bill for an alleyway improvement that may be for lighting or other improvements. But if you don’t have the improvement, we need to check on that. Please email our Taxation team at taxes@edmonton.ca this question and include your address or tax account number.

  8. Todd Burge
    1 year ago

    Hi Michelle, for a typical residential customer, 44%, 43% and 63% of the proposed utility rate increases goes towards upgrading the system in 2016, 2017, and 2018 respectively. The rates proposed in the 2016-2018 budget are adequate for the delivery of the existing 3 year plan that deals with current needs. Drainage Services is currently evaluating the impacts of increasing our delivery to address future Citywide drainage needs. This will be addressed in the Drainage Capacity Implementation Plan that will be included in the upcoming Business Plan that will be presented in the summer of 2016.

  9. Todd Burge
    1 year ago

    Hi Daniel, to answer your first question: Less than half of Edmonton’s residential garbage currently goes to landfill. We divert over 50% mainly through recycling and composting. Our goal is to reach 90% diversion once the waste to biofuels facility and a new anaerobic digestion facility are fully operational. Thanks for your suggestion about separating compostable garbage at the source and putting it into clear bags. We currently compost material at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre. We will be reviewing our sorting and collection processes as part of the strategic planning in 2016. For now we are asking residents to continue to set out their compostable material for collection with the rest of their garbage. At the Edmonton Waste Management Centre we will recover it and turn it into compost.

  10. Pilar Martinez
    1 year ago

    Hi Michelle, Membership Fees in the past generated approximately $600,000 in revenues a year. Membership fees were identified as barriers for customers accessing our services and in 2014 the Board approved the free membership fees for Edmonton residents. The membership fees were made up through efficiencies we were able to find in our operations.

  11. Pilar Martinez
    1 year ago

    Thanks for your question Daniel. To answer your second question: In a year, EPL spends $2.5 million on new print books, $1.1 million on DVD movies which includes $15,000 for DVD music. We also invest $236,000 in music CD’s. EPL has included $963,000 in fine revenues in 2016. EPL is proud of our rich, diverse collection that serves Edmontonians and we’re always looking for new suggestions.

  12. Pilar Martinez
    1 year ago

    Hi Thomas, thanks for your question about the EPL. The epl2go literacy vans are interim solutions to serve underserved areas of our city that don’t have access to brick and mortar libraries. Annual operating costs of a literacy van is $225,000. This covers the cost of two staff, fleet costs and programming. The literacy vans provide services to underserved areas of Edmonton and provide programs at city facilities, parks, schools, child care facilities, hospitals, community leagues, banks, churches, etc. For more info please see http://www.epl.ca/epl2go

  13. Todd Burge
    1 year ago

    Hi Thomas, Property taxes are apportioned based on a property’s assessed market value, not on the owner’s income level. However, the Government of Alberta has recognized that some seniors on fixed income find it difficult to afford annual property tax increases. To help seniors, the Government of Alberta offers financial assistance for the payment of property taxes. It’s called the Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program . This program allows the senior to defer any or all property tax payments through a low-interest home equity loan. If your neighbour wishes to sign up, the Alberta government will pay the residential property taxes directly to the municipality on your neighbour’s behalf.

  14. Todd Burge
    1 year ago

    You can check out the City’s proposed budgets in a number of different forms:

    – the actual budget documents and the break down by departments – edmonton.ca/budget2016
    – an interactive, user-friendly budget primer – yegcitybudget.ca
    – an open data version of the budget – Open Budget

  15. Nick
    1 year ago

    how much freedom do you actually have when managing city money?

  16. Sean
    1 year ago

    Some other cities charge their residents per bag of garbage instead of a flat monthly rate like Edmonton does. To me, this seems a more fair way as people who throw away more, pay more. Is there reason Edmonton uses the flat rate vs. per bag?

  17. Todd Burge
    1 year ago

    Thanks Nick. As Chief Financial Officer, I oversee the financial planning for the City, however, the priorities and programs are set by City Council. All departments prepare business plans that reflect the priorities and programs of City Council. The proposed budgets built by Administration are based on those business plans, and are presented to Council for their debate. City Council amends the proposed budget and ultimately approves it in mid-December. As managers our responsibility is to spend money effectively and efficiently in delivering on the priorities and programs of City Council.

  18. Pilar Martinez
    1 year ago

    For the library lovers out there, did you know, every three seconds someone borrows an item from EPL? We’re more than just books. We have over 9.3 million digital items available. We offered almost 14,000 programs in 19 locations last year.

  19. Todd Burge
    1 year ago

    For those who use the Edmonton Waste Management Centre in northeast Edmonton, the overpass crossing the rail tracks is now open and access has been greatly improved! We look forward to the completion of the Anthony Henday in late 2016. http://www.edmonton.ca/EWMC

  20. City of Edmonton
    1 year ago

    That’s all the time we have for today everyone. Thank you for tuning in and asking such great questions! This session has helped us learn more about your priorities for the budget, and we hope you learned a lot about some of services and programs the City provides for you and your neighbours.

    Again, we apologize if we didn’t get to your question. We will do our best to get it answered and posted here as soon as we can.

    Answering your questions today were: Todd Burge, who is the Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and General Manager of the Financial Services and Utilities department and Pilar Martinez, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Edmonton Public Library.

    Join us again tomorrow for Ask Me About the Budget: Session 2 with Community Services and its Acting General Manager Rob Smyth. Check out the blog post about that session and send in your questions.

  21. Daniel
    1 year ago

    Thanks for answering my question! I will post some to the next session.

  22. Todd Burge
    1 year ago

    Hello Sean. Thanks for being patient as we gathered some background for your question. Through two public consultation process​es ​(​in ​2006 and ​2012​)​ we asked Edmontonians ​for feedback on various methods of financing waste services. In both cases, the majority of residents said they prefer the flat fee system. Please note that our fees cover much more than garbage collection – they also support blue bag and blue bin recycling, recycling depots, eco stations, assisted collection, big bin events and our environment-friendly approach to treating waste as a resource instead of landfilling it.

  23. Todd Burge
    1 year ago

    Hi Thomas. Thanks for being patient as we worked out a complete answer to the part of your question about what the City is doing to mitigate flooding in Mill Woods and your interest in the living wall demonstration project.

    Drainage Services is working on flood mitigation projects within the Mill Woods area as part of the Approved 2015-2018 Capital Budget and the forecasted 10 year Capital Plan to reduce the risk of flooding to a reasonable level.

    Retrofitting neighbourhood features with stormwater ponds and sewer upgrades is resource intensive, and must be staged in order to balance these works with other critical infrastructure projects.

    The near term plan is to continue with flood mitigation projects currently planned to address the impacted communities as part of the approved 2015-2018 Capital Budget. The impact of city-wide improvements is expected to be more substantial, and will be quantified as concept plans are better known. In addition, this will also address how we can mitigate the potential risks associated with climate change such as localized storms and storm intensity.

    The Flood Mitigation projects in Mill Woods have a combined approved budget of $51.9M for the 2015 to 2018 portions of the projects. Some of the key projects in Mill Woods are the Tawa Dry Pond and Conveyance System, Tweddle Place Sewer Upgrades, Ekota Dry Pond, and the Malcolm Tweddle and Edith Rogers Dry Pond and Conveyance System.

    The Living Wall demonstration project was a success. During this demonstration noise monitoring was completed at two locations before the wall was installed, and after the wall was installed during summer and winter. Based on the noise measurement data, the Living Wall performs as well as the original sound barrier. For more detailed information on the results of the Living Wall as a sound barrier, the noise assessment report can be found at http://www.edmonton.ca/residential_neighbourhoods/Edmonton_91_Street_Berm_Removal_Noise_Study.pdf

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