City council approves annual operating budget

  • Jan. 22, 2014 8:58 p.m.

City council approved the 2014 operating budget last week with a recommended 3.93% tax increase. The operating budget totals $305 million.

“This budget focuses on building our core infrastructure and delivering services to our residents, all while maintaining quality of life,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “We made key investments in core services such as policing and snow and ice control, which the community has identified as priorities for council.”

The City requires a 3.93% increase in overall municipal tax revenue to implement the approved budget. For a home with an average assessment value change and is assessed at $300,000 for the 2014 tax year, this equates to an increase of $68.04 for the year 2014, or $5.67 per month.

The new tax rate will be set later this spring. That tax rate will then be combined with the education tax rate to help determine how much property tax residents will pay. An assessed property value is multiplied by the property tax rate to determine a resident’s property tax bill.

“We know safety is a priority for residents, both on the roads and in terms of personal safety, and the investments included in this budget are a step towards increasing the overall safety of our community,” said Veer. “This budget also attempts to minimize tax impact to our citizens by finding base budget reductions though savings in consultant fees, conference and travel expenses, and temporary staff vacancies through hiring delays.”

Some of the key budget initiatives include the RCMP member fee agreement, police member and municipal employee resourcing and changes to the level of service for snow removal. In both the capital and operating budgets, the investment in core services like roads and safety were a priority.

Council also voted for higher standards of service when it comes to snow and ice control – a $1.7 million increase to the operating budget this year and in 2015.

More equipment for snow removal, for a cost of $2.1 million, will also be added in time for next winter to ensure crews can meet the new standards.

Changes include increased plowing on residential streets. City crews will complete a surface plow (leaving a 5 cm snow pack) four times each season if necessary. All residential streets will be completed within five days, and windrows will be left on either side of the streets. The trigger for a surface plow will be 10 cm of accumulated snow.

Council also approved the recommendation to plow back lanes up to three times per season if necessary as well.

For collector roadways, which includes bus routes, council increased the number of plows per season from one to four. The targeted completion for these roadways will be 20 days with the trigger being 10 cms of snow.

As for commercial and industrial areas, plowing will be increased there as well. Council voted in favour of plowing these areas up to three times a year with targeted completion within five days. Windrows will be left in these areas and the trigger for plowing is a snowpack of 15 cms.

In addition, as part of the operating debate council approved a number of cost saving and revenue generation initiatives including a reduction in consultant fees, conference and travel expenses, and a cessation of firewood supply in Red Deer parks.

“The recommendations put forward invest in maintaining and enhancing core infrastructure to accommodate growth of our city in annexed areas,” said City Manager Craig Curtis. “The investments made represent the delivery of quality services for Red Deerians today, and in the future.”