City looks for specifics ahead of the provincial budget

Budget 2017 to be announced on Thursday

  • Mar. 15, 2017 7:14 p.m.

Funding stability and the need for an expanded courthouse are top of mind for Red Deer City council and administration going into the provincial budget announcement on Thursday.

“We continue to advocate for Red Deer and our citizens on a provincial and national level to ensure our issues are being heard; this budget is one way we can gauge whether the provincial government’s responsiveness to our concerns,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “Both these issues have been top of mind for many years, and we continue to work with the Province of Alberta on them and other issues affecting Red Deer.”

A new courthouse is needed in Red Deer and Central Alberta as it would ensure increasingly speedy legal processes and proceedings that result in the safety and security of our citizens. With the ever increasing population Red Deer’s courthouse serves, this need is more pronounced than ever before.

“We remain concerned about access to timely justice that alleviates the strain on our community and responds to the pressures on our local and regional judicial systems,” said Veer. “Locally, enforcement efforts are focused on addressing serious and violent crime in our community. Increasing capacity within our local courthouse ensures more charges are upheld by the judicial system, which is an important part of our enforcement and community safety efforts.”

As a municipality, we look to the provincial government to provide stability and recognize the direct and indirect impacts that downloads and reductions have on municipal budgets and community life. Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding is the life blood of our capital plan allowing the City to move forward with much needed local infrastructure projects.

“Without stable funding and committed funding levels, it is unreasonable to expect municipalities to effectively build sustainable budgets when the Province continues to download their financial shortfalls onto municipalities, and subsequently, citizens,” said City Manager Craig Curtis. “MSI funding has both operating and capital components. The capital demands exceed available government funding sources; therefore, stability in MSI funding is critical in meeting the community’s needs. While we expect the capital stream to remain stable for the next year, the Province has been silent on the operating stream. A reduction could mean the City will need to look at our 2017 operating budget to find savings.”

While the province is not expected to announce any new municipal funding that might alleviate the financial impact of the carbon levy on municipalities, they did commit to making more progress on Alberta’s capital plan during the Speech from the Throne last week.

“Despite the challenging economic reality in our province, funding of local infrastructure is needed as we work to fulfill our vision and potential of our community and the region,” said Veer. “Red Deer continues to deal with municipal infrastructure shortfalls as there is a lack of revenue to meet the City’s needs, but we remain hopeful that the province will recognize the role it can play in to providing stability to business, residents and communities.”

The education requisition amount continues to be a concern for the City of Red Deer. The education requisition is collected as part of citizen’s property tax, and as this requisition increases so do property taxes in Red Deer and across the province.

“We are increasingly concerned about the direct and indirect impacts a potential change in the education requisition has on our citizens through the property tax,” said Veer. “The City has one main source of revenue – property tax. We continue to believe the education tax should not be collected as part of the property tax and should be collected directly by the Province.”

Outside of these issues, City council’s advocacy efforts continue to include municipal access to funding programs related to the carbon levy, and local social infrastructure, such as a detox facility, affordable housing and other social supports. The City is supportive of other community needs including Polytechnic University status for RDC, Red Deer Regional Hospital growth needs, and programs that encourage entrepreneurialism.

“Earlier this year, the City built its budgets and plans for 2017 and beyond based on the reality that community building is province building. We hope the provincial budget reflects that thinking as well,” added Veer.

Veer will attend the provincial budget announcement in the legislature on Thursday. “My hope is that budget 2017 acknowledges the importance of balancing investment in infrastructure with the need to minimize the overall tax impact to all Albertans at a time when we are all feeling the pressure of a struggling economy.”

– Fawcett