Red Deer’s finances are right where they should be when it comes to its annual budget, as City council learned on Monday during its first ever mid-year budget review. City Manager Craig Curtis, summing up the 2012 budget year so far, says except for one higher than expected collective agreement (for the RCMP) everything is basically going as planned and the City’s annual budget is showing a slight surplus.
“We’re in good shape going forward,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling. “This is something new for us. At this time of the year all the various departments are looking at their 2013 budgets anyway, so it’s a wonderful opportunity for council to reconnect with the realities of the budgeting process. Setting the budget is one of the four key things that council does and this is a good time to look back and look ahead. However, we have to guard the agenda very carefully.”
Council sets the City’s annual budget in January every year.
However, council took time during the budget review to approve several items, the cost of which varied between the 2012 budget and the still to be set 2013 budget. For example, council approved $20,000 for the 2013 Special Olympics Alberta Spring Games (hosted by Red Deer) from the 2012 budget, and approved $173,000 for a 2013 City census to be funded in the 2013 budget.
Council also approved $70,000 to purchase an additional Action Bus plus annual operating costs of $106,000, to answer increased demands for handicapped bus services.
However, council turned down a request for an additional conventional bus at a cost of $445,000, putting it off until the 2013 budget. Other funding issues involved approving $3,820 to reopen the Fairview skating rink, but council declined a request to resume 30-minute bus service after 10:45 p.m. (despite a petition with almost 500 signatures). Cutting that funding from the 2012 budget resulted in savings of $160,000.
Council also learned that a 2012 budget addition of $475,000 to the City’s preventative roadway maintenance repaired over 14,000 potholes on City roads, compared to an annual average of 4,000 to 5,000 repairs.
“It feels really good from a check-in perspective,” said Councillor Cindy Jefferies. “There are good parts about it and troubling parts about it. I think it keeps us more in touch about the budget and it’s good to try new things. Overall the financial picture is fine and it’s about where we expected to be.” She added it’s a chance to see how budget decisions made last January are working out.
Councillor Frank Wong said, “This is the first time we’ve done this. Yes, it’s a good idea to see where we are, but I don’t like this bringing in (new) items to be approved. Some people think they can get issues on (the agenda) but I don’t think we should do that. We’re going to spend a little more.”