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The City of Edmonton’s Budget is about work.

It’s the work of translating what we dream about for our community (when we stop to contemplate these things) into what we experience when we’re actually out there in a city built of asphalt, concrete, glass, wood, paint, brick, iron, bark, granite, steel, tile, bronze, polyvinyl chloride, rock, water, dirt and grass.

It’s the work of Councillors who study, debate, argue, resolve, compromise and vote.

It’s the work of administrators who answer questions, advise, provide history and context.

And it’s the work of Edmontonians who follow the discussions, make comments, ask questions and speak in front of City Council.

The Budget is the game plan for how best to spend $3 billion a year for the kinds of things we can’t do ourselves. Paving roads. Fixing curbs. Planting trees. Clearing snow. Staying safe. Growing neighbourhoods. Playing sports. Moving from here to there.

And it’s helped to life by the people who work for the City of Edmonton.

None of this work can happen without your money.

All of this work happens in the knowledge of what your money actually represents. 

It represents your own work.

Edmontonians work hard for the money to help build the meaning of their lives here. The portion of that money that goes to City Hall to bring the Budget to life—your taxes—is treated not as an abstract number or an entry in a database. Your money is used to build the common good, but never treated commonly. Your  money is treated with care, prudence and respect.

The City Budget is about the work that respects your work.

Starting next month, Edmonton City Council will set its Capital and Operating Budgets for the next four years. These Budgets are big documents. It takes some work to get through it all.

Right now, City of Edmonton employees in every department are pulling together these Budgets and want to help all Edmontonians better understand the hundreds of pages of tables, charts and numbers. As the Budget process unfolds, we want to help Edmontonians make sense of it all and answer your questions.


Edmonton 2019-2022 Budget

City Recreation Facilities

City recreation facilities are more than cash registers. They are built on a policy that, in part, commits the City to run them in a way that encourages accessibility and participation. They are valuable community hubs. We build them to be safe, welcoming places where everyone can socialize, create, play and be active. What the market might demand, and what growing families, vibrant communities and healthy individuals might demand, are not always the same. The balancing act is some of the work that happens during the Budget process.

Questions & Answers

Here some of the questions you’ve been asking about City recreation facilities:

Are City recreation facilities operated on a cost-recovery basis? If not, what price increase would be required to operate on a cost-recovery basis?

We get this question a lot, and it’s a good question.

The short answer is no, the City of Edmonton does not operate its recreation facilities on a cost-recovery basis. For most facilities, user fees cover about half the annual operating costs. Revenues at recreation facilities have been lower than budgeted in recent years. But we have, on average, seen steady growth in revenues over the past five years. And overall attendance is also on the rise. User fees are reviewed and approved by City Council every year.

There is a recreation facilities user fees policy that aims to:

  • Ensure that fees contribute to the public’s effective and efficient use of City resources 
  • Reduce reliance on property taxes, by recovering a portion of the costs for various services from the user(s) who primarily benefit from them
  • Provide a consistent and equitable process that encourages accessibility and participation
  • Identify the relative pricing provided to various user segments
  • Establish meaningful and realistic goals that provide enough flexibility to meet evolving social values and changing fiscal pressures 

Embedded in the policy is a commitment to provide a consistent and equitable process that encourages accessibility and participation. This is who we are. This is how we build our city and support the communities we serve. Surging attendance at facilities from 2013 to 2017 reflects Edmontonians’ support for our work. From 2013-2017 attendance at recreation facilities grew from 6.9 to 9.3 million. The Leisure Access Program (free and discounted admission for low income Edmontonians) has also grown from 30,000 people visiting 410,000 times in 2013 to more than 48,000 people visiting 794,000 times in 2017.  As of August 28, 2018, there are 65,599 Edmontonians enrolled in this program.   

Each type of recreation facility operates at different cost-recovery ratios. While user fees do not cover the cost to construct or replace recreational facilities, user fees generally recover about half of the annual operating cost. User fees are reviewed and approved by City Council each year.  

Can the City expand partnerships with non-profits like the YMCA to operate new or existing City recreation facilities? Is there any advantage to having the City operate recreation facilities instead of third parties (e.g. YMCA, Kinsmen)?

The City of Edmonton partners with many organizations to operate recreation facilities. The City looks for groups that bring operational or programming expertise or can support infrastructure investments. Examples of these facilities include:

  • Edmonton Scottish Society - new indoor sports field
  • Scona Pool
  • Millwoods Golf Course
  • Fort Edmonton Park
  • Telus World of Science
  • Whitemud Equine Centre
  • Edmonton Ski Club
  • Snow Valley Ski Club
  • YMCA
  • Indoor Soccer Centres
  • Kinsmen Arena 
  • Saville Community Centre
  • Ivor Dent Sport Sports Park

Some, but not all of these partnerships, require some level of ongoing operational subsidy from the City of Edmonton. Several organizations have also approached the City of Edmonton recently regarding financial challenges they are experiencing related to infrastructure and ongoing operations. For traditional recreation centre (arenas and pools) partnerships, they must meet some or all of our accessibility programs (such as, minor sport subsidies and priority access, Joint Use Access for schools, access for low income Edmontonians and so on) to ensure accessibility for Edmontonians. Partners either look for donations or City funding to cover the cost of these programs.

Cost Recovery/Analysis

We get a lot of questions about how we keep track of costs, how and if costs can be recovered, and how we ensure we’re on top of the best research and insight into cost tracking and analysis. Rightly, folks want to know that we know the costs of red tape. And where savings are waiting to be plucked. People want to know that the City of Edmonton, while not a business with a strict bottom line, is business-minded. We are. And we are always looking to learn and improve. One thing to know in some of the technical talk that follows is that the money we budget for every year is exactly the amount of money we collect and spend—no more, no less.

Questions & Answers

Thanks for these questions:

Which City services pay for themselves through user fees and which don’t? Is there an opportunity to increase fees for those that generate less revenue than needed to recover costs?

How does the City determine which services are appropriate for cost-recovery, and which should be subsidized? 

The City’s waste management utility recovers all operating and capital costs through utility fees. Both Edmonton Transit and City recreation facilities operate under a partial operating cost recovery model, where user fees recover part of the service’s operating cost but none of its capital cost. 

Up until 2018, the Development Services Branch also operated on a full-cost recovery model. This business model is being reviewed to ensure its long-term sustainability and meet service demands on an ongoing basis. But it’s important to distinguish Development Service’s primary revenue sources, development permit and licence fees, from user fees. User fees are charged to sell access to a public service. Development permits and licenses give legal permission to residents and property owners to do certain activities in compliance with the City’s standards.

User fees are set by City Council. Only Council can raise or lower user fees. Council weighs decisions around user fees against:

  • Citizen demand for the service
  • Public demand versus user fee rate (such as too high of a price may decrease demand for the service)
  • Council’s strategic goals
  • Budgetary requirements and pressures
  • Cost-recovery levels
  • Level of subsidy from the property tax base 
  • Socioeconomic, income and economic characteristics of those accessing the service 

While the City does have individual user fee policies for select services (for example, Recreation Services, Edmonton Transit, and so on), it doesn't have a corporate-wide policy in place yet. The City’s User Fees White Paper examines developing a corporate policy for user fees and subsidies that supports the City’s financial, economic, social, and environmental strategic objectives. The white paper recommends that City services could have user fees if they meet the following conditions:

  1. The levying of user fees complies with the Municipal Government Act and any other relevant legislation
  2. There is some private benefit derived by an individual from use of the service
  3. The revenues generated through user fees would be greater than the cost of implementing a fee system
  4. Restricting access to the service can be enforced if payment is not made—the City is willing and able to exclude non-paying customers in a way that is legally and administratively feasible
  5. One person’s use of the service does not deplete or consume the service so as to prevent another user from accessing it at a later time
What is the rationale for maintaining a Land Enterprise Group?

Enterprise Land Development (ELD) benefits the City through the development of residential, commercial and industrial lots. This helps offset our overall operational costs through an annual dividend, expands the City’s infrastructure and creates opportunities for business. The group operates as a self-funded enterprise. It does not depend on tax revenue from the City.

ELD’s land development projects involve constructing all infrastructure related to the development of greenfield land into fully serviced subdivisions. In addition to onsite work within the project boundaries, development projects often include offsite work that benefits the larger neighbourhood like removing barriers or entering into agreements or partnerships with other developers to support further growth and development of neighbourhoods.  

ELD generates revenues from the sale of residential, commercial and industrial lots. These revenues expand the City’s road network, promote sustainable built forms, add to the City’s open space and natural areas and improve the City’s resilience to major storm events. ELD contributes to affordable housing initiatives, increases the City’s tax base, offsets corporate operational costs. All this provides opportunities for business and improves the lives of Edmontonians. 

Does the City benchmark its costs and approval processes to other municipalities in the region?

Yes, the City of Edmonton maintains close relationships with other municipalities and shares information on costing, processes and improvement possibilities all the time. We also use public and private benchmarking databases including Yardstick, Public Service Digest, and Muniscope. The City also presents benchmarking and municipal scans within Council and Committee reports to understand best practices (example: Bylaw 18185 Amend Parking Fines). The City also developed a new Corporate Accountability Framework, which includes guidelines for authorization of expenditures, as well as benchmarking against other municipalities, the provincial and the federal governments. 

An April 11 Global News story quoted Todd Burge, Deputy City Manager for Financial and Corporate Services, as saying the City is working on a red tape white paper. What is the status of this white paper?

This white paper - the Urban Form Business Transformation initiative - was set up to improve how the City provides planning and development services. A dedicated team is working to make changes that appreciate and minimize the impact of the process on the outcomes - places to work and live. In collaboration with City building partners, the initiative responds to concerns raised around:

  • Predictability (consistency in the process steps and timelines)
  • Transparency (open communication and access to information)
  • Accountability (performance measures, continuous improvement)
  • Ease of use (process steps and progress tracking are straightforward)

Throughout 2018, the City has been working with staff and industry organizations to identify opportunities. We have already made a number of improvements with the next set moving forward in late 2018. 

The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce Business Advisory Committee is one of the regular channels used to provide feedback and gather perspectives from the development industry. These quarterly meetings include the City, Chamber of Commerce, Urban Development Institute, Commercial Real Estate Development Association, Building Owners and Managers Association, Canadian Home Builders Association and Realtors Association of Edmonton. Valuable insights have been provided and integrated into the improvements and work in progress. The initiative includes components of the Land Development Application Process Improvements Work Plan developed in cooperation with the City of Edmonton and UDI.

Completed improvements:

  • Expansion of the Expedited Development Permit Program - The program provides applicants with an opportunity to assess their own applications to get a development permit for single detached dwellings in Residential Small Lot (RSL) and Planned Lot Residential (RPL) zones. The expanded Expedited Development Permit program was available to applicants in the spring 2018 with the following benefits: 
    • A 15% increase in applications processed through the program 
    • An 82% increase in applicants 
    • The ability to reallocate staff resources to more complex applications
  • Efficient Resource Allocation for Safety Code Inspections - improving the efficiency of the allocation of resources for safety code inspections based on data and risk. Applicants with a proven track record have to complete a reduced number of footings and foundations inspections per year. This allows:
    • City inspectors to focus their time on higher-risk inspections
    • Builders to move more quickly to the next phase of construction
  • Home Improvement Permits - adding more permit options to the online self-serve improving the applicant experience for common residential improvements or construction including decks, accessory buildings (garages, sheds, and so on) and basement developments. These applications were accepted online in spring 2018, along with shifts to internal processing to increase efficiency and reduce processing time. This process change:
    • Increases convenience for applicants 
    • Reduces barriers to getting permits while still ensuring projects meet all legislative requirements
    • Allows more experienced staff to focus on complex applications
    • Benefits large scale commercial and industrial development through the integration of services for timely processing 
  • Enhanced Business License Online Service (2019) - to improve simplicity and convenience of acquiring a new business license and related permits through a streamlined process. This builds upon the online renewal process (completed end of 2017). 

Improvements on the way:

  • Commercial and Industrial Permit Applications Online (Q4 2018) - Modernizing our service by moving the permit application online and refining the process to take advantage of the digital environment better aligns with current industry practice.  Benefits include:  
    • Reduced timelines through transparency in the review process with integration of City expertise and collaboration with applicants to resolve issues
    • Potential savings over $200,000/year in printing and courier costs for applicants
    • Reductions in time spent on administrative tasks and movement of hard copy applications 
    • Clarity and guidance on application requirements and process
  • Urban Form Business Transformation (2018/19) - Together with stakeholders improving the services that build Edmonton. The next set of UFBT improvement projects, initiated in late September, will:
    • Minimize time to go from application to occupancy by reducing rework and inefficiencies
    • Apply rigor appropriate to project scale and type
    • Improve accountability and integration across services
    • Maximize value of the expertise and contributions through consistency, standards and sharing of information

More information available:

Open data has achieved considerable savings for the City and improved transparency. Is there an opportunity to achieve further results?

Yes there is. The Open Data team has only skimmed the surface of the data we can release and how it can be used. We have worked with multiple external partners to develop interactive visualizations, story maps and other tools using Open Data but have also seen many external organizations and institutions create maps and tools independent of our services. Organizations are using Open Datasets to improve their ability to attract economic development or make processes easier for our developers (for example, map and survey data).  The City continues to look for opportunities to partner with non-profit, public and start-up organizations to expand both datasets and develop tools. 

Two examples of recent organizations that have used Open Data to showcase their services and products include:

  • TruHome - Under TruData, TruHome asks questions and provides insight through data to help home buyers and sellers make better decisions when it comes to real estate.
  • MyHeat - This solar potential map provides estimates of the amount of power that may be generated by installing solar panels on a particular building. Citizens are encouraged to use the links and buttons provided on the map to learn more about solar providers and the financial incentives offered to install solar panels.

Open Data has great opportunities to help Edmontonians to make informed decisions. The City has recently extended its successful relationship with the vendor who provides our existing platform for the City’s Open Data Portal. This long-term relationship allows us to secure the services of a market-leader at a competitive cost and continue to provide uninterrupted access to the data.

We remain focused on maximizing the value and impact of Edmonton’s Open Data. This includes key areas of improvement, all of which have seen significant advancement in the first half of 2018.

  1. Giving extra transparency to City decisions by continuing to make it easier for Edmontonians to access maps and interactive tools that help them explore and understand the City around them
  2. Expanding the use of stories and media that describes how the City collects, analyzes and acts on the data it collects. 
  3. Enhancing the quality and connectedness of data through the release of more timely and detailed data. Real-time transit vehicle location data has created opportunities for an improved service experience through both direct-City offerings as well as third-parties such as Apple and Google tools. The City is looking to release more historical data that shows progress against long-term City visions and strategies, such as climate change and Vision Zero.
  4. Engaging and collaborating with post-secondary students, interested residents and entrepreneurs in the use of Open Data to develop innovative solutions with the potential to benefit the City. We have collaborated on the following projects:  
    1. Air Quality Health Index Light Installation - This physical device changes colour depending on the current quality. 
    2. Social Benefits Explorer Tool - The You Can Benefit tool is intended to help Edmontonians easily access information on municipal, provincial and federal benefits.
    3. CityGram - A subscription notification tool that keeps people informed of City activities (construction and road closures) that might impact their day-to-day lives.

While we expect the Open Data platform and its uses continue to expand, we know it could be affected by new developments related to policy around data privacy laws and legislation. In May of this year, Europe released the General Data Protection Regulation to protect citizens from having their data used unwillingly and unknowingly. At present, no such policy exists within Canada, but we remain cognizant that much of the data we collect is tied back to the residents we serve. We are fully committed to the responsible and effective use of all data and will continue to monitor legal and legislation changes.

What are the City’s internal performance measures (e.g. ROI)? Who gets access to that reporting?

To remain transparent, the City measures and reports progress on results that matter to Edmontonians and City Council as directed by Enterprise Performance Management Policy C600. Corporate performance measures are being finalized with the implementation plan for the Enterprise Performance Management Policy and the Corporate Business Plan for 2019-2022. 

The City of Edmonton reports on the delivery of operations in public through various Council and Committee reports, and via budget deliberations. The past period and proposed budget is scrutinized by Council, citizens and business partners; and funding is ultimately approved by Council to meet the needs of the people of Edmonton. 

The City of Edmonton is open and transparent with performance reporting. Information on the City’s performance is public through Open City Data, the Citizen Dashboard, and public updates to City Council on Council’s strategic plan, The Way Ahead 2009-2018.

Has the City explored generating new revenue through naming rights (example Servus Place)?

City Policy C477A Facility Name Sale sets circumstances where the City could proactively pursue facility name sales and a consistent approach and guidelines for assessing facility name sale opportunities. Consistent with the policy, the City of Edmonton proactively pursues name sale opportunities for new recreation facilities and for elements of current and future facilities. Selling the name of a City of Edmonton facility to an external organization or corporation provides a means of generating new revenues and alternative resources to assist in the construction, support and/or provision of new City of Edmonton facilities. City facilities must be linked only with external organizations that are compatible with, complementary to, and reflective of the City’s values and mandate.  

Name sale agreements are established in a manner that safeguards the City’s assets and interests, enhances access and fairness, and that results in the optimal balance of overall benefits to the City and the community. The City of Edmonton Naming Committee and Edmonton Historical Board are also consulted regarding proposed names. Some examples include the MaxWell Realty Flexihall in the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre and Hockey Canada Rink in The Meadows Community Recreation Centre.

What kinds of cost-benefit analyses are included in Council Reports? Which items require a cost-benefit analysis, and what don’t?

The budget and financial implications of recommendations are included in Council Reports. The type of financial analysis and the level of detail included in the Council Report depends on the nature of the item being discussed or recommendation being proposed in the report.

Do Council Reports include analysis on any additional costs to business (i.e. smoking ban)?

Administration attempts to include as much quantitative and qualitative analysis in Council and Committee reports to best represent aggregate viewpoints of stakeholders. Public engagement activities are outlined within specific sections of reports and any related attachments. Overall, the Council and Committee report process enables individuals and/or stakeholder representatives the ability to request to speak if there is any additional considerations or viewpoints that should be considered.

What kind of cost-benefit analysis does the City conduct to determine how public events are sponsored or funded?

The City supports a variety of events and festivals of different scope and scale, and the requirements for these vary. Events seeking sponsorship or funding directly from the City of Edmonton are required to submit a request to the City either through a Corporate Sponsorship Application Form or, in the case of larger events seeking significant amounts of funding, a business case and go through a rigorous process of review that is outlined below. 

Major sport and cultural events that are attracted or brought to the city such as FIFA or the Canadian Country Music Awards must submit a business case for review and analysis to determine if the City wants to host the event based largely on the cost and benefits that will be realized. Specifically, the City, in partnership with Edmonton Tourism, assess the economic impact, reputational gains and social benefits of the event to ensure it aligns with City priorities and contributes to a healthy, vibrant city. In this assessment a number of tools are used and, depending on the amount of funding requested, we may need to go to Council for approval. Following these events a STEAM Pro (economic benefit analysis), which provides an independent assessment by the Canadian Sport Tourism Association, is often completed as part of our evaluation process. In the Edmonton Events Sport and Cultural Attraction Plan we continue to develop the tools that we have available for use based on our specific needs and best practices from cities around the world.

Local non-profit arts and festival organizations may apply annually for grant funding through Edmonton Arts Council, supported by the Municipal tax base. Those operating grants are allocated based on assessment by peer juries that consider programming, audience, administration and impact factors that align with City priorities in making those recommendations.

Edmonton Tourism, which leads the attraction of meetings, conventions and trade shows, also follows a similar process, including assessing economic impact assessment and placement. 

Has the City done any analysis on the increase of public engagement, and whether or not that has significantly altered decision-making processes or outcomes? How much has the cost of public engagement increased in the past 5 years?

In 2016, Administration prepared a report (CR_3097 - Public Engagement Process - Statistics) that provided an overview of public engagement costs expended by the City of Edmonton over the previous five years (2011-15), a summary of typical engagement costs, and examples of projects where public engagement added costs or value.

As identified during the Council Initiative on Public Engagement, equally important to considering the cost of engagement is to consider the cost of not engaging, in terms of the quality of decisions, the impact on volunteerism, the City’s reputation, the influence on creating awareness for the purpose of projects and the value to community building. The commitment to the new policy on public engagement has substantially increased since the Council Initiative. Council reports now include details on what public engagement was done around each report's subject matter.

As noted in this report, the tracking of costs for Public Engagement is complex as these tasks are integrated into broader project and are not itemized in that manner. Administration has not done any further analysis since this report was developed.  

FTEs, Wages and Collective Agreements

Just over half of the City’s annual Budget pays for people – City of Edmonton employees who do the work you see (including life guards, firefighters and road crews), those whose work you experience (like the people who design neighbourhoods, parks and bridges) and those whose work will be felt by future generations. Some 14,000 City of Edmonton employees make our city tick. In financial-speak, these are full-time equivalents (FTEs). FTEs is mainly a term we use to explain the number of full-time permanent employees who serve you. At certain times of the year and for certain positions the City employs seasonal, part-time or contract workers. These positions are not FTEs. Most City employees are unionized. They belong to unions that align with the type of work they do. Firefighters, bus drivers, electricians are all represented by a union. The City of Edmonton works closely with these unions to negotiate salaries and benefits for all these employees. This process is called collective bargaining.

Questions & Answers

Here are some questions we’ve received lately on the people-side of the ledger:

What analysis is done before the City approves the replacement of an outgoing employee? What analysis is done before approving a new FTE?

All approvals to replace employees are evaluated by the City’s Executive Leadership Team. These positions are analyzed before any position is approved  to understand:

  • Why the positions are required
  • Funding source, position term/length
  • Risks and implications of not hiring the position
  • How positions align with overall strategic direction
  • Data and metrics that demonstrate work volumes and/or return on investment
Has the City kept to the average 1.1% increase in FTEs budgeted for 2017 and 2018?

When the 2016-2018 Operating Budget was approved, the budgeted FTE increases for 2017 and 2018 averaged around 1.1%. The actual experience of growth in FTEs over the last three years has been different. In 2017 the number of FTEs was 14,108.1. This was a 178.2 FTE increase from 2016 - a 1.3% increase. As of June 30, 2018 the number of FTEs was 14,524.8, an increase in 416.7 FTE from 2017 - a 3% increase. The areas with the largest increase of FTEs  for 2018 are Economic Development Corporation (250.0 FTEs transferred from Northlands), Edmonton Police Service (75.5 FTEs). The City has certainly maintained or even reduced the average increase in budgeted FTEs over the last two years. The increase for the 2017 Budget was 1.1% and the increase to the 2018 Budget was 0.6%.

What percentage of total City FTEs comprise supervisory roles?

Total senior and middle management positions represent 2.9 percent of total permanent staff. This includes managers from the level of General Supervisor through to the City Manager but excludes in-scope/unionized supervisors.  

How much has the City spent on severance payments in each of the past five years?

Severance payment information is confidential and not released. The City uses severance payments when individual non-unionized positions are abolished as part of a restructuring exercise or in cases where the termination of employment is without cause. In all cases, employment legislation, common law reasonable notice requirements, and/or the termination provisions of an employment contract are followed. 

Unionized staff at the City have received an 11% increase over the last four years, while private sector wages are still below their 2014 peak. Will the City target a reduction in wages, or at minimum a three-year wage freeze, in upcoming negotiations?

The mandate for negotiations has not been determined and it will remain confidential. The City is always working manage costs across the corporation, including employee wages. No cost of living increases were provided for management/out of scope employees in 2017 and 2018.   

What is the City of Calgary’s strategy for upcoming union negotiations?

We cannot comment on the union negotiation strategy of any other City. 

For calculating the average cost per employee, would it be fair to take the $1.523 billion in personnel cost and divide it by the 13,988 FTEs? (108,876)

That’s one approach but it would generate a very high level estimate of cost per FTE. And it should be noted that personnel costs include wages, benefits, allowances and overtime. A more complete analysis could be done by using the information from the collective agreements.

Administrative salary information is available in the City’s open data.

Do you have an estimate of how many staff leave each year (quit/retire/fired) to estimate the attrition potential? Is it similar to the 5-8% provincially?

Below is the chart for City turnover. Turnover is based on the previous 12 months, so July 2018 is from August 2017-July 2018. 

# of Staff who left in the past 12 months: 

Voluntary Turnover
Resign - 276 employees (average headcount of 9375 = 2.9%)
Retire - 216 employees (average headcount of 9375 = 2.3%)

Involuntary Turnover
Involuntary Turnover - 108 employees (average headcount of 9375 = 1.2%)

Total Turnover
Total - 600 employees left (average headcount of 9375 = 6.4%)

  Total Turnover Rate Voluntary
Turnover Rate
(retirements & resignations)
Involuntary Turnover Rate
(dismissal, death, unsuccessful probation, position expiry)
July 2018 6.4% 5.2% 1.2%
July 2017 5.8% 4.7% 1.1%


The City of Edmonton purchases goods and services to keep the whole operation going. Everything from dirt to databases. To manage of all of this and to ensure that we’re spending the least amount of your money as efficiently as possible, the City has a specific procurement process to track value.

Questions & Answers

Here are some of your questions about contracts: 

In what instances does the City tender sole-source contracts? How much has the City tendered in sole-source contracts in each of the past 5 years? Is there a publicly available list of sole-source contracts?

The City of Edmonton follows a policy, that outlines the procurement processes including limitations on sole-source contracts. In the Non-Competitive Procurement Administrative Procedure any costs more than $500,000 require approval from City Council or a Committee of Council. All non-competitive procurements above $75,000 are provided publicly to Executive committee on a semi-annual basis.

How much was spent on external contractors in each of the past five years?

Over the last five years, the City has spent between $118 and $128 million annually on external contractors. On average 72% of this was for capital projects - contractors for architectural design and engineering for projects like the Walterdale Bridge and our LRT expansion.

Changing Priorities/Program and Service Review

Cities have always delivered the basics. Over time, the basics have not always stayed the same. Years ago, for instance, you would look to the City to provide reliable garbage service. That’s still the case. But it’s also the case that cities, including Edmonton, offer counselling, build affordable housing and plan festivals and events. As the list of programs and services the City offers continues to grow, we need to keep an even closer eye on making sure we are offering the right ones, at the right time, to the right people. That’s why the City started a comprehensive review of all our programs and services in 2017. And that’s why we’re also looking for ways to retrain and deploy staff where and when they are needed most.

Questions & Answers

We’ve received some thoughtful questions about changing priorities and our program and service review:

Does the City retrain and cross-train to redeploy staff when priorities change? Is there an opportunity to increase this training?

Yes, retraining and cross-training are used to redeploy staff. Operational requirements and technology often drive the need for change. For example, as operational needs shift, staff may be assigned two roles to support seasonal operations - grounds crew in the summer and roads crew in the winter. Training is provided to support the competencies required for equipment used in the summer and then equipment used in the winter. Training is offered to support the use of new technology. Additionally, a wide range of training is provided to fill in skill gap for employees as their roles shift with priority shifts (such as project management training, contract management).

What savings have already been identified through the Program and Service Review? Have they been operationalized? What savings are projected to be achieved through future reviews?

Savings identified through the Program and Service Review will be outlined in the next update to City Council in Fall 2018. Once recommendations are approved, additional time will be required to fully implement but this progress will be monitored and tracked to ensure value is being realized. Savings through future reviews are expected to be greater, but may require City Council approval. These recommendations have either not received full circulation through all necessary steps or are currently being actioned through required procurement steps. The Program and Service Review Plan including the approach and intended outcomes was presented at the March 22, 2016 Executive Meeting, meeting minutes including the Project Plan are available (Item 6.17).

Why hasn’t the Edmonton Chamber been retained as a participant in the Program and Service Review?

The Edmonton Chamber was a valuable stakeholder in the preparation and development of the Program and Service Review Project Plan. A Chamber of Commerce representative was invited to select Challenge Panel sessions to provide commentary and validate proposed recommendations of the Program and Service Reviews. It has come to our attention that this individual is no longer employed by the Chamber of Commerce. A new representative from the Chamber of Commerce was invited and will be attending the next Challenge Panel session. 

How has the City implemented priority-based budgeting? What processes are in place to prioritize City services? Have savings have been identified through priority-based budgeting?

The City has not implemented priority-based budgeting and, to date, no specific savings have been identified using a priority-based budgeting tool. The City of Edmonton did engage with the Centre for Priority Based Budgeting in 2013 in preparation for the 2014 Operating Budget. Administration worked through identification of programs and services offered by the City and did allocate the amount of resources thought to be associated with each. Although this was an important and valuable exercise that informed that budget, a priority based budgeting tool was not fully implemented. Since then, we have developed a prioritization exercise for the preparation of the capital budget as one of the several steps in the process. The June 26, 2018 City Council report CR_5668rev provides further detail on the criteria that was used for the 2019-2022 Capital Budget.  

Budget Increases

The headline answer is that prices go up for the goods and services the City purchases. The City’s bottom-line watchers contend with a constant flow of more for this, more for that. All these increases are reflected in our Budget. Not only do we show Edmontonians what things now cost us more, but we drill down into estimates of what will cost more in the future. This helps the City of Edmonton plan better the ways to spend and not spend the money Edmontonians provide. Keep one thing in mind with all the headlines, though. Some budget “increases” reflect shifts in how the City of Edmonton organizes its workforce. In those cases, reallocations register as increases, but you’re not paying any more for the wages, equipment and costs of those employees.

Questions & Answers

Here are budget questions we’ve received lately:

Why has Intergovernmental & External Affairs’ budget increased 122% since 2013?

To understand the changes in budget between 2013 and 2017, it’s important to understand certain changes within the organization. In 2013 the budget for the then Intergovernmental and External Affairs Branch was $2.8 million. Currently, Intergovernmental Affairs and External Relations are two separate sections in the Communications and Engagement Department. Prior to March 2016, there was no distinct External Relations Branch. It was formed as part of the creation of the Communications and Engagement Department and new staff were hired in 2016/17 into vacant FTEs that were transferred from other operational areas within the City. The Intergovernmental Affairs unit transferred into the Communications and Engagement Department in January 2018. The 2018 budget for Intergovernmental Affairs is $1.3 million and for External Relations it is $1.8 million. 

Note: In 2016 the ‘Event Attraction’ program which was part of Intergovernmental and External Affairs was moved to the Citizen Services Department. At that time, the budget for this program was $2.8 million and included several one-time budget items for events within the City.

Why has Human Resources’ budget increased 61% since 2013?

A better way to understand actual service cost increases for the HR Branch from 2013 to 2018 is to review expenditures prior to any funding transfers. 

As a starting point, 2013 actual expenditures for HR Branch Services before recoveries was $19,943,000. In 2018 the budget for expenditures before recoveries is $25,081,000 for a difference of $5,138,000 over the six year period (25.7%). It is important to note that approximately $1.6 million of that increase was directly related to the cost associated with providing increased temporary administrative support through Staff Support Services to the rest of the organization. Once this amount is subtracted from the above, the growth in expenditure overall for HR Branch related expenditures is 17.7%.

Of the 17.7% increase, approximately $670,000 was related to starting the School of Business training section and licencing associated with implementing an enterprise wide Learning Management System. The remaining cost increases are related to increased cost associated with corporate HR systems and increased staff cost. 

Looking at tax levy growth alone for the Human Resource Budget from 2013 to 2018 is misleading due to the significant changes that occurred related to funding sources, not expenditure increases that shifted cost to tax levy. This exaggerates the actual HR Budget cost during this time period. Some examples of shifting funding sources during this time period are how HR Disability Management Services funding changed. In 2013 HR Disability Management Services was funded through the corporate sick leave fund and did not show up as requiring tax levy within the HR Budget. In 2015, this was changed and these services are now funded through tax levy funding and not through the corporate sick leave fund. The result is that there appears to be a large increase in the HR budget for new services but in reality what occurred was shifting the funding source from a corporate transfer to a tax levy charge. This single adjustment accounts for about 14% of the reported increase. 

Another change occurred because of the move of Fleet Services from Enterprise status to tax levy funded. This meant that a funding transfer from Fleet Services to cover the cost of HR Service to the HR Budget ceased. The cost associated with the services provided to Fleet were now budgeted as tax levy within the HR Budget. A similar change to shift some HR Safety Services funding from WCB Partner Injury Reduction funding also occurred over this same period of time. 

Why has Corporate Communications’ budget increased 45% since 2013? FTEs have increased by 17%, does this mean more communications work is being conducted by contract? Are details on communications contracts publicly available?

The short answer is, the Communications Branch is different today due to a reorganization.

In March 2016, a new Communications and Engagement Department was formed and initially included four branches: Communications, Marketing, External Relations and Engagement (consisting of 311 and public engagement). In January 2018, Intergovernmental Affairs was added. Prior to the formation of this department, the work of communications and marketing was within the Corporate Communications Branch but several other operational areas had dedicated marketing, communications and engagement staff. When the new Communications and Engagement Department was established it was done through the reallocation of existing budgets and resources. City staff performing communications, marketing, external relations and engagement work were consolidated into this new department, and a number of vacant FTEs and associated personnel and program budgets were transferred to the department from other operational areas. 

Details of awarded contracts are not made public in order to protect proprietary information. Tenders valued over $75,000 are posted on the Alberta Purchasing Connection in accordance with trade agreements. The department is also finalizing a process for contracting select services through pre-qualified suppliers.  

Why has Corporate Procurement & Supply Services’ budget increased 43% since 2013

Since 2013, the Corporate Procurement and Supply Services branch has added additional resources to decrease procurement cycle times for both capital and operating contracts. This was funded through a combination of reallocation of existing resources in City Departments as well as funding allocated from Capital for procurement resources directly involved in the procurement of large scale capital projects. In addition, requirements as a result of bringing on new trade agreements, including the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) and Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) has increased effort on new procurements while Administration works to optimize procurement and contract management processes through the Procure to Pay Transformation program.

Why has Current Planning’s budget increased 39% since 2013?

Almost half the increase in the Current Planning - now known as Development Services - budget since 2013 is due to debt payments and rebates related to the Revolving Industrial Servicing Fund (RISF). The fund and associated reserve were established in 2015 to encourage industrial development through financial incentives. This fund provides rebates to front end developers that build cost-shareable infrastructure. 

If you remove RISF from the analysis, there is a 22% increase to Current Planning’s budget since 2013. This increase is primarily driven mainly from union settlements, cost of living increases. There were some additional FTEs required to address service volume demands, implement service enhancements and meet industry expectations of service levels. Shared service charges and discretionary intra-municipal services have also increased in alignment with increases in service demands from areas such as technology, communications, human resources, financial and legal support.  

Requested positions are only filled in the event service demands require them. Although recent forecasts suggest potential declines in application volumes, FTE requests enable the Current Planning Branch to quickly respond to upswings in the economic activity to meet industry expectations of service levels. Any positions filled from service packages are offset by an equal or greater amount in revenue and have no impact to the tax levy.

Why has EEDC’s budget increased 38% since 2013? Is this expected to decrease with the creation of Edmonton Global?

The increase in budget between 2013 and 2018 primarily relates to service packages (totaling $4.6 million) that have been approved through that period for new initiatives that EEDC has undertaken. These initiatives include:

Industry Development - $725,000
Startup Edmonton - $300,000
Make Something Edmonton - $1,500,000
EDMH Leverage Funding (Tourism) - $300,000
TEC Edmonton - $1,000,000
Health Accelerator (TEC) - $500,000
Tourism - $250,000

The remainder of the increase relates to an average of three per cent increase year over.

In regards to decreases to EEDC’s budget, in 2018 we received a reduction of $668,000 for the scope of work now being done by Edmonton Global. In 2020 the $500,000 service package for the Health Incubator will be removed from our budget as the funding was approved for a five-year term.

Why has Financial Services’ budget increased 35% since 2013?

In 2014 the Financial Services Branch included the following programs: budget planning and development, client operations, corporate accounting and reporting, investment management and treasury management. The 2014 adjusted budget was $16.4 million and included 232.2 FTEs. The approved 2018 budget for these two branches is $21 million and includes 233.8 FTEs. The increase in budget (28%) is mainly due to union settlements and cost of living increases.

Why has the Corporate Services budget within EPS increased 24% since 2013?

Between 2013 and 2018, the Edmonton Police Service budget grew 26%, as a result of additional officers, related equipment and the staff and infrastructure required to support those positions. The primary responsibility of Corporate Services Bureau is to support the front line with:

  • Human Resources Division, including all aspects of recruitment, training and development, employee family assistance and occupational health and safety
  • Supply Services Division to maintain and operate of all EPS facilities, maintenance and management of the EPS fleet, and the coordination of the EPS procurement processes
  • Informatics, which is responsible for all of the Information Management and Information Technology requirements for the EPS in both the facilities and the vehicles
  • Financial Services Division which is responsible for the stewardship and planning of the Operating and Capital Budgets.

Given the complexity of these support functions, it is important that these areas keep pace with the growth throughout the service. In 2013, Corporate Services made up 24% of the total EPS budget and in 2018, 25% of the total EPS budget. From 2013 to 2018 the EPS grew by 433 FTEs, 112 of which were allocated to Corporate Services to catch up from years of the focus being on Frontline and to support the general growth of the service.

The staffing complement of the Corporate Services Bureau is made up of four primary unions or associations (CSU52, Edmonton Police Association, Senior Officers Association and Management employees). Since the 2013 Budget was published the CSU52 Staff have received 13.25% in collective bargaining settlements. This relates to the majority of the staff complement in the Corporate Services Bureau. The EPA and SOA have received 9.9% and the 2017/2018 years remain unsettled and the Civilian Management Staff received 6.75% for the 2014-2016 fiscal years and have received 0% every year thereafter.

Respecting the governance role of the Edmonton Police Commission, inquiries regarding the Edmonton Police Services Budget should be directed through the Edmonton Police Commission, to the attention of the Executive Director, Justin Krikler. He can be reached at or 780-822-7148.


Edmonton 2019-2022 Budget

For More Information

311 Contact Centre


In Edmonton: 311

Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311

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