Council to debate operating budget next month

  • Dec. 16, 2015 3:23 p.m.

Red Deer City council will debate the 2016 operating budget, totalled at $341.9 million, in the New Year.

Red Deer City council will begin reviewing the City’s operating budget on Jan. 6th, as the next step in the 2016 budget process. The $160.6 million 2016 capital budget was approved on Nov. 24th.

“The overall theme of the 2016 operating budget is balancing vision and economic reality,” said City Manager Craig Curtis. “At a time when our economic reality is ever shifting, this balancing act is increasingly important as it ensures that Red Deer continues to be a great community to live, play and work.”

In terms of services, 24% of the operating budget is slated towards general City expenses, 18% is slated towards policing, 14% goes to emergency services, 11% is for roads, construction and snow, 10% is for transit with another 10% for recreation and culture, 4% goes to neighbourhoods, 2% is for electricity and 1% is slated for waste, water and air.

Curtis added the economy will play a factor in the 2016 operating budget and beyond.

“In October the province shed 11,000 jobs and in November, 14,900. In two months alone, the City lost 26,000 jobs. So it is a difficult decision and unemployment has risen to the seven per cent mark and even appears to be climbing,” said Curtis. “The outlook may be portrayed as a little bit gloomy over the next two to three years. The original projection was where the Conference Board of Canada and others predicted a turn around in the economy around mid-2016, now the banks are indicating late 2017, early 2018. We are seeing a change in the degree of optimism in how the economy will recover.

“I think the optimistic factor is that we have been through many of these cycles in Alberta and the important thing is not to overreact to these cycles. But we do have a number of uncertainties.”

The proposed budget is based on council’s strategic plan and initiatives in City department service plans, Curtis added. City council’s strategic plan identifies three themes for administration to focus on – dialogue, community amenities and financial leadership.

“The capital and operating budgets are one way administration puts council’s strategy into action for the community,” said Curtis.

The 2016 operating budget being recommended by administration considers City council’s direction for a 1% capital contribution (amenity and growth) based on prior year approvals as well as a property tax revenue requirement that does not exceed 5% and a $455,000 download from the Province of Alberta to cover provincial property taxes.

The City also faces many challenges such as a slowing economy, a decrease in oil prices and manufacturing output, and decreased or eliminated grant funding.

“The budget being recommended to council has an increase of $4,589,507 or the equivalent of a 3.78 per cent tax increase in the municipal portion of a property tax bill. This is comprised of 2.41 per cent plus one per cent for capital for amenities and growth plus a 0.37 per cent tax download from the province,” said Curtis. “However, this figure is only a starting point and will be impacted by council debate.”

Based on the submitted budget, a home which experienced the average assessment value change and is assessed at $325,000 for the 2016 tax year, can expect to see a $72.72 increase ($6.06 monthly) in the municipal portion of their taxes, which will be used to fund City services. This does not include any changes to the education portion of property taxes as these won’t be known until later this year when the province releases its budget.

Administration will present its operating budget, including Funding Adjustment Recommendations (FARs) to City council for consideration. Council will debate the operating budget on Jan. 6th, 7th, and 8th and if needed, debate will continue on Jan. 11th, 12th and 13th.

As part of the 2016 operating budget process, citizens have the opportunity to review the budget and provide feedback to council before they consider it. Feedback can be provided by email to legislativeservices@reddeer.ca or in writing at City Hall, Collicutt Centre, Recreation Centre, Red Deer Public Library Downtown Branch, Timberlands Branch and G.H. Dawe Community Centre Branch. Copies of the budget are also available at those locations.

Budget details can also be found online at www.reddeer.ca/budget. The deadline to submit feedback is 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 23rd.

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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