Operating Budget tackles policing funding shortfall, recreation fee adjustments

Budget talks continue through Friday, possibly into next week

City council continued to delve into the details of this year’s Operating Budget during deliberations on Wednesday.

The proposed Budget is based on council’s Strategic Plan, guidelines established by council, initiatives in City department service plans and feedback from citizens regarding community safety.

The 2019 Operating Budget as recommended to council has an increase of $3,336,384 or the equivalent of a 2.50 per cent tax increase in the municipal portion of the property tax bill.

The $121 million 2019 Capital Budget was approved last November.

One of the major topics that surfaced was over covering a provincial funding shortfall – which was approved – for three RCMP officers to the tune of $175,000.

Councillors spoke in frustration over what they noted was a stark lack of funding from the Province in terms of helping out in this area.

“Please, please understand, Province, that policing costs have changed. What your’re doing is not equitable, certainly not equitable,” said Councillor Ken Johnston.

Coun. Vesna Higham also pointed out the inequity in funding formulas between urban and rural municipalities when it comes to policing.

“Every municipality in Alberta should have the same ability to service and protect their citizens,” she said.

Council also discussed a one-time Recreation, Parks and Culture revenue adjustment of $100,000 which makes for a 2019 total of $404,620.

Higham proposed an amendment looking for possible program reductions to help cut some overall recreation costs, but council ultimately didn’t support it. Council also discussed dividing up the recreation funding differently between one-time and ongoing funding, but that was ultimately defeated as well.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said that ultimately, she was opting to support the original recommendation that administration put to council in terms of the revenue adjustment.

“I find it really ironic that for the last year and a bit, we’ve been promoting the Canada Winter Games and the importance of sport and activity and healthy communities,” she said, referring to discussion of attempting to trim costs in this particular area.

She pointed out that citizen satisfaction surveys show how much residents consistently enjoy and utilize recreation facilities.

Making the facilities open to as many citizens as possible is therefore the most sensible path to take, she said, particularly in terms of keeping things affordable for local families.

“This is, for me, a good investment of our tax dollars for the subsidization of recreation services.

“I’m going to go with the recommendation set before us,” she said.

Budget talks continue through to Friday, with a possibility of extending into next week as well.

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