Council passes $356.5 million operating budget

Red Deerians face a 1.52% tax increase this year

  • Jan. 21, 2017 4:02 a.m.

Council passed the City’s $356.5 million operating budget today, which will include a 1.52% tax rate increase.

That increase is comprised of 0.43% for operating costs, 0.79% for capital savings and growth and 0.3% accounting for the impacts of the provincial carbon tax.

That means for a home assessed at $325,000, the owner would pay an extra $30.96 for 2017.

The provincial education and Piper Creek Foundation requisitions are not yet known.

On the final day of deliberations, council cut its capital contribution by $279,000.

Initially, Councillor Tanya Handley had proposed cutting the entire $1.2 million contribution. That would have brought the tax increase down to 0.74% but would remove up to $24 million out of the City’s 10-year capital plan.

That was roundly opposed by other councillors before they settled on a smaller cut.

Handley said she did not want to see the capital contribution eliminated, but wanted to prompt discussion on possible savings to keep the tax increase as low as possible.

Councillor Lawrence Lee proposed the amended reduction.

“I just don’t think we should stop saving completely. But I can certainly live with the reduction of the $279,000 this year in recognition of the current state of affairs,” Lee said.

The reduction takes $2.8 million out of the City’s 10-year capital plan, which will now have to be adjusted in the fall, said the City’s Chief Financial Officer Dean Krejci.

Councillors Lynne Mulder and Paul Harris voted against the motion. Mulder did not think it was a worthwhile trade off, to take money out of the capital plan to save taxpayers what would amount to roughly 30 cents per month.

“I think it’s taking the easy way out at great expense,” Mulder said.

In the discussion, City Manager Craig Curtis was asked to provide background information to the capital contribution.

Curtis said the City’s original capital plan was built around the province’s Municipal Sustainability Initiative but as the grant program was reduced, council sought a different way to fund community amenities.

Council eventually decided to contribute 1% from the operating plan to the capital plan, which has been, “One of the wisest strategies that council adopted,” he continued, saying it has had a major impact on the City’s ability to build community amenities.

It took 46 hours of council debate over nine days to finalize what so many at City Hall have said was the most challenging budget they’ve ever worked on.

Mayor Tara Veer commended councillors for the rigorous, thorough but respectful debate.

“Our community has made it very loud and clear to us over the last couple of months especially that with eight per cent unemployment and population loss and with business loss, we needed to deliberate this budget more methodically and intentionally than we have in the past,” Veer said.

“Every investment or expenditure that we made, we have to be able to rationalize that to our public with why, or why not.”