Coun­cil­lors sug­gests cut­ting cannabis costs to slash tax hike

StarMetro Edmonton - - EDMONTON - KASHMALA FIDA

Coun­cil­lors say le­gal­iza­tion was not as prob­lem­atic as they ex­pected it to be, which is why they sug­gest cut­ting down on re­lated costs in an ef­fort to bring down the prop­erty tax in­crease.

At the op­er­at­ing bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions on Mon­day, coun­cil­lors are look­ing into ways to re­duce the tax hike and one sug­ges­tion is re­duc­ing po­lice and by­law en­force­ment costs for cannabis le­gal­iza­tion.

Cur­rently it costs be­tween $5 to $6 mil­lion a year to have ad­di­tional po­lice and by­law of­fi­cers pa­trolling streets to en­force the smok­ing by­law, which pro­hibits peo­ple from smok­ing within 10 me­tres of build­ings and bus stops.

The 2019-2022, $4.3 bil­lion cap­i­tal bud­get proved to be a tight one, leav­ing no wig­gle room for coun­cil­lors to fund a num­ber of projects. The op­er­at­ing bud­get pro­poses a prop­erty tax in­crease of 3.3 per cent for the next year to cover costs of Val­ley Line LRT, cannabis le­gal­iza­tion and Ed­mon­ton Po­lice.

Coun­cil­lor Ben Hen­der­son said be­fore le­gal­iza­tion they ex­pected a cri­sis, which is why they in­creased by­law en­force­ment and looked into hir­ing more of­fi­cers, but says that’s not what hap­pened.

“You know it’s a lit­tle bit like Y2K. Ev­ery­body imag­ined cri­sis com­ing when cannabis got le­gal­ized,” he said. “I don’t think that’s hap­pened.” Coun­cil­lor Ben Hen­der­son said of­fi­cials had ex­pected a cri­sis prior to le­gal­iza­tion.

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