This afternoon, on day four of the City’s operating budget meeting, two items were flagged for discussion to take place next week.
One is an organizational restructuring to create a Protective Services Division. All of emergency services, police, crime prevention, safety, security and emergency management would be combined into the new division.
Currently, those various services are delivered through three separate administrative areas. The proposed move to a single one is “long overdue,” according to administration’s report, taking into account rising crime and Red Deer’s population.
“With rising crime, a focus on safety and the need to define risk management and business continuity, it is important to maximize the co-coordination between these areas of City administration,” the report states.
Two new personnel would be employed – a director and an administrative support position.
The impact for 2017 would be a $200,000 tax requirement and $12,000 from reserves.
Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said she’s looking forward to the discussion, adding the optics of creating a new City division in the middle of a recession will have to be considered.
Also coming up, talk on adopting Speed on Green technology, which is used to catch drivers speeding through intersections.
The budgeted revenue from implementing Speed on Green — fines collected from speeding violations — is listed at $250,000 in 2017.
“We need a little bit more background information as council to make an informed decision. That’s revenue that then impacts the budget if we don’t put it in,” Wyntjes said.
“You’ve got to balance that out with the dialog we’ve had with our community, what we’re already hearing about photo radar.”
Wyntjes said she’s heard questions about why red light cameras are located where they are, as well as complaints that they are a ‘cash cow.’
She adds another consideration is that violations recorded by Speed on Green do not result in demerit points, which is a part of changing drivers’ behaviours.
The Jan. 13th meeting started in camera and finished with no change to the tax rate increase, now at 2.2% after reductions this week.
Council did find about $97,000 in reserve savings by choosing not to conduct an additional Value for Money audit in 2017. Mayor Tara Veer said there’s already one underway, approved from a previous year, looking into planning, engineering, inspection and licensing.
There will be one in 2018 instead.
“Generally, we’re on a two year program so council said next year we would commission a new Value for Money audit,” Veer said.
Value for Money (VFM) audits examine City operations for efficiency, quality, and identify ways to provide more bang for the taxpayer buck.
Councillor Tanya Handley took the opportunity to extol the virtues of conducting them.
“Recently, a few of us chatted with members of the Red Deer Taxpayers’ Association and one of their concerns was around having external looks at City operations,” Handley said. “And it was really nice to be able to say to them, we’re doing that.”
She continued, “It’s a really important way to show our community that we are transparent and making sure we have the best value for tax dollars.”
Some other budget items severed for discussion next week include the City’s Canada 150th celebration, implementation of the Community Safety Strategy, downtown safety initiatives and a winter pilot project involving the Ross Street Patio.