City manager discusses economic downturn in address

  • Feb. 11, 2015 4:26 p.m.

City Manager Craig Curtis gave an address to the Rotary Club of Red Deer East yesterday and one topic that was touched on was the state of the province’s economy and how it will affect the City.

“We have a vision of where we want the community to go and as we have that vision of where the community is going to go, it may mean we have to slow down a little bit on some of the things we want to do. We are working hard to open up Riverlands – but of course the sale of land there will depend on the economy,” he said prior to the meeting.

“We have huge opportunities and the thing is to not sell ourselves short. We may need to phase things but we need to keep our plans for growth, our plans for the downtown intact as we react to whatever happens provincially. The point is not to overreact.

“I think everyone is a bit nervous – nervous as to what it might do to house prices, etc. I think the key is that whenever this has happened before it’s a blip and the question is how long will it be? Not whether the prices will go up, but when? And that is the nervous part.”

Curtis added the City has been through economic downturns before and will get through this one just the same.

“We are probably in the best economical corridor in Canada – whether we are in a dip or not – and its strength is immense. I see us in the future being a city of 300,000 or more in the not so distant future. We are anticipating the City will double in the next 18 to 20 years.”

In addition, Curtis also spoke about themes in the City’s strategic direction. Those include dialogue, community amenities and financial leadership.

“Dialogue is all of our interaction with the community and the way we have been going out more into the community and getting more input on our budget and on our various projects, etc.,” he said. “Community amenities are about the opportunities we have for the (2019 Canada Winter) Games but also the surveys that have also identified the new amenities we need.

“And the financial leadership – there are myths that we don’t compare well with some other cities in terms of business tax. We have business property tax and we have some of the lowest taxes of any city in terms of some of the ratios between our residential and commercial tax. We have very low tax for commercial and industrial and with residential we are in the middle of the pack,” said Curtis. “As well, our debt is well below the provincial debt level and sometimes people have a total apprehension about debt, but a fair proportion of our debt all relates to our utilities, our water and wastewater treatment plants and virtually no city has a pay-as-you-go system. And we are just expanding both at the same time.”