Budget Series- Part 2

Written by Tom Ndekezi and Robyn Taylor

General Overview: Economic and Environmental Sustainability Branch, Parks and Road Services, Edmonton Space and Science Foundation

Economic and Environmental Sustainability - $17.5-million (pg. 544-564 of the Operating Budget)

As you might have guessed from the name, the Economic and Environmental Sustainability branch is a dual-faceted branch, focused on helping the city meet its goals of not just being a commercial juggernaut, but an environmentally conscious commercial juggernaut. The branch’s aims are also farsighted, more so concerned with meeting long-term goals than with the specific day-to-day goings on of the city.

On the economic side, a healthy portion of the branch’s budget finds the city either incentivizing businesses to renovate abandoned or dilapidated buildings (Brownfield Grant Program and Facade Improvement Program), or trying to capitalize on the potential of possible commercial hubs (Airport Accord and Chinatown Project). Programs like the Corner Store Program see the city extending its gaze past the skyscrapers of downtown, and trying to stimulate investment in neighbourhood businesses. The budget’s mission statement for the branch is to make Edmonton “a city that is vibrant, prosperous, and sustainable”, and becoming as business-friendly as possible seems to be item number one on the list.

About $4.4-million of Economic and Environmental Sustainability’s budget goes towards environmentally focused plans, most of them geared towards the city’s goal of decreasing Edmonton’s greenhouse emissions to 50% of its 2005 levels by 2030. The Green Electricity program—which is receiving $500-thousand in 2019 and an additional $500-thousand every year until 2022—is aimed at getting approximately 60% of the city’s electricity from carbon-free sources by 2022. The PACE program, in a kind of marriage between the branch’s economic and environmentally oriented components, is receiving $123-thousand dollars towards helping businesses and homeowners subsidize the cost of energy efficient upgrades. Visit the mentioned pages for even more information on the Economic and Environmental Sustainability Branch!

Parks and Road Services - $210-million (pg. 216-230 of the Operating Budget)

The work of the Parks and Road Services Branch mainly regards the maintenance of green spaces, public parks and walking trails; regulating parking; repairing and maintaining roads and bridges, and cleaning them during the winter; and overseeing traffic safety. You’ll notice that there’s no mention of a Ron Swanson character slowly trying to take down the branch from the inside; no, this is all business.

The new budget sees the Parks and Road Services branch getting a  $7-million hike to its operating budget, although much of this can be attributed to the city’s recent annexation of part of Leduc County. About $4-million has been allocated to servicing the newly acquired 8,000 hectare area, with possibly more to be added.

The Parks and Road Services budget sees the city widening ongoing initiatives, as well as kicking off new pilot programs. One particularly interesting pilot is the introduction of LiDAR—the same technology found in police speed guns—to more effectively identify potholes on city streets. In addition, the city is expanding a pilot started last year that involved using calcium chloride to clean the streets as opposed to salt. The calcium chloride solution is meant to act as a protective layer between snowfall and the pavement, and while the program is reported to have saved the city millions, it has also faced some pushback.

Other highlights include the city promising to continue its commitment to Vision Zero, a 2015 initiative aimed at reducing the number of fatalities and serious injuries caused by vehicle collisions down to zero, as attempting to reduce power consumption and emissions with the installation of LED streetlights.

Edmonton Space and Science Foundation -  (pg 698-704 of the Operating Budget)

It’s likely that you know about the Telus World of Science (TWOSE). Home to countless elementary school trips, exhibits galore and IMAX theatre productions, this world-renowned centre is an undisputed  gem in our City. TWOSE opened its doors in 1984, and is currently operated by the Edmonton Space and Science Foundation, a City of Edmonton non-profit organisation.  

Concerning the future goals and targets for the Telus World of Science, major growth and expansion is to be expected. The Aurora Project: an ambitious 20,000 square foot expansion and renovation initiative, includes developments like the new Ziedler Dome, modernized Cardinal Building Galleries, an interactive Arctic Gallery and other updated galleries.  On top of that, new program development, increased attendance, employment and outreach service expansions show that TWOSE is expecting some serious developments in the coming years.

The Aurora Project is an estimated $40 million, and there still needs to be money to cover other costs such as personnel expenditure (salaries, wages), cost for materials, goods and supplies, utilities, etc. Luckily, much of these costs are offset by the amount of revenue TWOSE earns, and the increased improvements most likely come with an increased audience, meaning an increased revenue.

Though ideal, all these costs can’t be covered by revenue alone, which is where the City of Edmonton Budget comes in. For a decade, TWOSE has received base operating grants of $2 million (that increases slightly each year to account for inflation). Due to events like inflation and budget cuts, the grant’s value has since changed over the years. For 2019, TWOSE wants to bring it all back, and reset their base operating grant to the 2010 level of $2.179 million, which entails a one time increase of $383, 121. With this increase in grant money, TWOSE expects to generate anywhere from $10 to $15 million in annual operating revenue!

Tune in next time to find out more information about the Edmonton Public Library, Arts Council, LRT Expansion and Renewal and Transportation/Transit!