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Mid-year budget review outlines City’s financial status

Council approved a $1.22 million one-time capital investment in a variety of items

City council heard details about Red Deer’s financial status during the mid-year budget review held Sept. 5th.

“A couple of years ago, council decided to introduce a mid-year budget, recognizing that with changes in our economy and our need to respond to federal and provincial budgets that are tabled in the spring, it would be responsible on our part to do a mid-year budget review check-in in terms of how other orders of government budgets are affecting the City,” said Mayor Tara Veer.

“That’s what we accomplished today – it was a check-in in terms of our local economy and how it’s positioned in the provincial economy and making sure we are on track, which we are for the 2018 budget, and identifying some time-pressing issues that need to be attended to before we enter into full budget deliberations in January.”

Council approved a $1.22 million one-time capital investment in a variety of items including the realignment of Waskasoo Creek to protect water infrastructure and parking lot improvements in the downtown core.

According to council notes, “Administration recommends the completion of parking lot improvements on recently purchased parcels of land across from Central School to create about 32 parking stalls to be used for daily and monthly users.”

Council was also told the improvements would add to the general parking supply downtown.

This year’s budget review also included a report to council on the additional 10 RCMP officers that were approved as part of the 2018 operating budget.

These resources are being deployed to support priorities identified by council with six members assigned to the Community Response Team and four members to the newly created Downtown Unit.

The new hires aren’t all onboard yet.

“There often is a lag time between when we fund officers and when they actually arrive and when the boots are on the ground as it were,” said Veer. “Given the fact that we have such significant crime concerns in the community, this year in particular, and because of the concerns that Red Deerians have expressed to us, obviously the less lag time the better.”

It was also noted that the legalization of cannabis and the enforcement of the related municipal bylaws will create new demands for municipal staff as well as RCMP members.

Also discussed was the fact that over the next decade, a large percentage of the stormwater assets throughout the City will reach the end of their useful life.

In the 2018 budget, the total funding for maintaining and operating the stormwater assets was roughly $3.7 million or about one-third of the sustainable funding level.

During the review, council tabled a recommendation for $380,000 from the operating reserve to compile a final cost analysis and the development of a proposed stormwater utility rate model.

The issue will be further explored during 2019 budget talks.

The City also had received a request for support from Westerner Park for sponsorship of the 2018 Canadian Finals Rodeo.

The amount requested of Red Deer County and the City of Red Deer was $100,000 – $50,000 of which would be funded by the City.

The funds would go towards production of the opening ceremonies including naming rights for the presenting sponsors of the opening ceremonies for all seven performances during the CFR, which runs from Oct. 30th through to Nov. 3rd.

Council tabled the request to seek additional information until the Sept. 17th regular council meeting.

Dean Krejci, the City’s chief financial officer, said that generally, the City continues to be in very good financial shape both now and in projections for the future.

That’s in spite of continued reports of a relatively sluggish economic recovery overall.

“A lot of people are looking for those five or six per cent growth targets that we used to have in the boom days when oil was $100 a barrel. Now what they are saying is that (the rate of growth) is between two and three per cent,” he said.

“So it is growth – it’s just very steady and a lot less of an annual increase than what we’ve seen in the past in our boom and bust economy.”