Cost-savings discussed during operating budget debate

Red Deer council moves to day seven of deliberations on Wednesday

  • Jan. 18, 2017 4:24 a.m.

City council considered the utility-supported portion of the 2017 Operating Budget today, as well as a list of cost-saving measures, both those recommended and not recommended by administration.

Regarding the cost-savings, those recommended by administration had already been included when the budget was initially tabled.

Council approved one additional cost saving on the tax-supported side. Due to the economic downturn, the City has seen reduced need for recruitment advertising. Council decided to fund $10,000, or half of this year’s recruitment budget, through reserves, with a report on the impact to come in the future. As a result of that decision, the tax rate increase was reduced to 2.14%.

One cost saving that was not approved was the elimination of snow clearing from the Waskasoo Trails, which could have taken $29,904 out of the tax-supported budget this year. However, as noted by the City Manager Craig Curtis, this measure was not recommended, as the walkable trails have been popular with residents.

Reports circulated had incorrectly stated that Curtis was in favour of the cost saving. He took a moment to clear the air, saying in normal economic conditions, he’d advise expanding snow clearing.

“But given the challenges of this year’s budget, some of the changes we’re having to make, I’ve recommended that we certainly not cut back,” he said.

On the utility-supported portion, council approved the hiring of another lab technician at the water treatment plant. The position is needed for increased monitoring of the distribution system for corrosion, microbial indicators, disinfection byproducts; some in-house regulatory testing; creating and testing new lab methods; filing more detailed reports; covering for the existing tech.

Currently, there’s only one technician, working almost double the hours, according to the budget report, which also states current staffing levels put the City at risk of a water quality incident. Council expressed strong support for the position, considering the safety implications.