City council embarks on annual operating budget deliberations

City council embarks on annual operating budget deliberations

Discussions could carry into next week

City council embarked on annual Operating Budget deliberations Tuesday.

The afternoon focused mainly on updating council on the general goals and outlines of this year’s Budget, with more specific discussion over individual items to really launch on Wednesday.

The proposed Budget is based on council’s Strategic Plan, guidelines established by council, initiatives in City department service plans and feedback from citizens regarding community safety.

The 2019 Operating Budget as recommended to council has an increase of $3,336,384 or the equivalent of a 2.50 per cent tax increase in the municipal portion of the property tax bill.

The $121 million 2019 Capital Budget was approved last November.

“We know that we’ve had a struggle in this community in recovering from the recession,” said Craig Curtis, City manager, during his opening remarks.

“But there is a glimmer of hope in that recently, our unemployment has dropped to the lowest in the province at 4.4 per cent,” he said, adding that the City can’t lose a sense of optimism for the goals that staff and citizens wish to reach.

“But at the same time, real figures demand that we make tough choices,” he said. “That’s clearly the essence of the budget.”

Based on the submitted budget, a home valued at $325,000, which experienced an average assessment value change for the 2019 tax year, may see an approximately $54 increase per year in the municipal portion of their taxes.

This does not include any changes to the education portion of property taxes as these won’t be known until the Spring when the Province releases its budget.

“What we try to prepare is a realistic presentation in terms of council’s aims and goals,” said Curtis.

“We also have a new strategic plan from 2019 on,” said Curtis. “We implement the course for 2019 through our budget,” he said, adding that public input has also been considered in structuring various aspects of the Budget.

According to the 2018 Citizen Satisfaction Survey, respondents said the top three priorities for the City should be a focus on fighting crime (32 per cent), transportation (15 per cent) and municipal government services (10 per cent).

Meanwhile, Curtis also pointed out that the guidelines for the City’s strategic plan – a significant guiding factor in designing the Operating Budget – includes five key goals – that Red Deer is a safe community, a socially responsible city, a chosen destination, an economic leader and that the City of Red Deer provides citizen-focused service.

Dean Krejci, the City’s chief financial officer, added that the City is still awaiting the coming provincial budget to see what potential impacts that may have on both the capital and operating budgets.

Budget debate continues through to Jan. 11th and will also run Jan. 14th through to the 18th if necessary.