City council tackles operating budget

Residents could face tax increase of 3.91% this year

  • Jan. 9, 2013 4:05 p.m.

City council will began debating the 2013 operating budget today.

Since Monday, council has heard a number of funding requests from various City departments and today the debate was scheduled to begin.

“The overall goal of the 2013 operating budget is to maintain core services and respond to growth the City has seen,” said City Manager Craig Curtis. “This is also our centennial year, and as we look at the great community that Red Deer is, we need to ensure we provide services that benefit the entire community today, and in the future.”

The operating budget totals $284 million.

Some key budget initiatives include the RCMP member fee agreement, funding for four new RCMP officers and two municipal employees, funding for road maintenance and repairs, funding for new transit buses, and maintenance of parks and recreation facilities.

If the budget is approved, an additional $2.38 million will be allocated to policing. This would bring the budget to $25.4 million for the RCMP.

If the budget is approved in its entirety, with no added dollars, Red Deerians are facing a tax increase of 3.91% this year. The tax rate could change depending on the provincial education tax and Piper Creek Foundation requisition as well.

Council initially started with a tax increase of 4.15% but because the revenue from the City’s construction growth was larger than expected — from $1.9 million to $2.14 million, the tax increase changed on Monday.

Based on the submitted budget, a home, which experienced the average assessment value change and is assessed at $285,000 for the 2013 tax year, will see an average monthly increase of $5.45 towards City services.

One component of the services Red Deerians use on a daily basis is utilities such as electricity, water and wastewater. The City’s utility rate models are influenced by a number of factors and the region’s growth over a short period has been one of the major drivers. Upgrades to the water treatment plant and wastewater treatment plant to meet new environmental standards and increase capacity has had a significant impact on the City’s finances which has resulted in the need to increase rates.

The draft operating budget proposes a 4.5% increase for electricity. Provincial transmission costs are the biggest contributor to the 2013 electricity rate increases, and options were presented to council as part of the operating budget presentation to manage the collection of the increasing costs to access the provincial transmission system.

For water, wastewater, recycling and garbage pick-up, the typical monthly cost for a residential customer will be approximately $98 per month, or about $3.25 a day. This is about a 4.4% increase from 2012, which is competitive when compared to other municipalities in Alberta.

City council’s strategic direction identifies six themes for administration to focus on, and the capital and operating budgets make key investments in the areas of movement, safety and identity.

“The capital and operating budgets are one way administration puts council’s direction into action for the community,” said Curtis.

He added the City still faces challenges with slower than anticipated economic recovery, and the proposed 2013 operating budget balances the need for a strong, healthy community while using resources effectively and responsibly to watch the bottom line.

“The budget was prepared based on balancing what the community wants the City to do and what we need to do to maintain core services,” said Elaine Vincent, director of Corporate Services. “We have decreased revenues and lower return on investments, and we need to maintain our core programs and services that make Red Deer a great community.”

Budget talks are expected to wrap up by the end of the week.