OPERATING BUDGET - City Manager Craig Curtis discusses the Operating Budget. The budget presentation begins Jan. 9th. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

Operating Budget focuses significantly on community safety

Proposed 2% tax increase for operating budget, debate runs in January

The recommended 2018 Operating Budget, which is proposed at $361 million, has a primary focus on addressing community safety for the citizens of Red Deer.

With a proposed 2% tax increase, the proposed budget is based on council’s Strategic Plan, guidelines established by City council, initiatives in City department service plans and feedback from citizens regarding community safety.

It includes items such as the addition of four RCMP members, two municipal employees and increased funding for rough sleeper camp debris clean up.

“Our citizens have consistently identified for us that crime and public safety is their number one priority, therefore it is the number one priority of the City. We have heard consistently that we need to address the crime and public safety challenges, particularly with respect to property crime, and certainly the proposed funding of officers is a step towards that,” said Mayor Tara Veer.

As recommended from administration, Veer said those police officers will be specifically targeted for the downtown.

“We continually hear about some of the safety challenges in the downtown as being a critical component for the economic development and sustainability of our downtown.”

The addition of the two municipal employees are support employees for the RCMP contingent.

Veer also touched on some of the challenges with the operating budget.

“We continue to be in the midst of the lag factor of the recession. We know that this is a deeper and more protracted recession than in previous years and the 2018 budgets really reflect the full realization from the onset of the recession.”

She added they continue to have revenues down in terms of development revenues and particularly in areas like recreation and transit.

“The cost of running those services holds stable, so that has a significant impact. The other challenge of course is crime and public safety and our expectations of the community that we address that, however those are often very high cost services as well,” said Veer.

According to City Manager Craig Curtis, the increase in funding for rough sleeper camp debris clean-up is a major initiative.

“We’ve had a major problem in terms of the park system; we’ve had a number of community complaints in terms of the number of rough sleeper camps we have (in) the City. We believe that at any one time there have been up to 50 or more, and that we’ve been using resources in our parks and peace officers to actually evacuate those camps and clean them up.”

Curtis added that a significant portion of these rough sleeper camps relate to the opioid crisis.

“What I’ve said overall in the budget and what’s outlined in the service plan is that the opioid crisis is real, it’s upon us, but for a number of years key initiatives that could have dealt with this have been ignored.”

The 2018 operating budget being recommended by administration considers City council’s direction that the property tax increase does not exceed 2% in 2018, which must include a 1% capital contribution (amenity and growth).

“Our recommended operating budget reflects the economy, while sustaining City services,” said Chief Financial Officer Dean Krejci.

“The budget being recommended to council has an increase of $2.59 million or the equivalent of a two per cent tax increase in the municipal portion of a property tax bill.

“This includes one per cent for capital for amenities and growth. However, this figure is only a starting point and will be impacted by council debate.”

Based on the submitted budget, a home valued at $325,000 which experienced an average assessment value change for the 2018 tax year, may see an approximately $42.14 increase per year in the municipal portion of their taxes.

This does not include any changes to the education portion of property taxes as these won’t be shown until later next year when the province releases its budget.

Administration will present its operating budget to City council for consideration on Jan. 9th and debate will continue on Jan. 10th through 12th.

Dates are also held for Jan. 15th through 19th if required.

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