DISCUSSION - Councillor Dianne Wyntjes is pictured in Council Chambers during deliberations of the 2017 Operating Budget. Day three wrapped earlier today.

Red Deer City council continues to lower tax rate

Day three of the 2017 Operating Budget talks wrap

  • Jan. 13, 2017 4:05 a.m.

In the third day of 2017 Operating Budget talks, the tax rate increase was further reduced to 2.2% after council decided to partially fund from reserves the projected revenue shortfall in supplementary property tax.

Doing so removed $75,000 from the tax requirement, leaving $50,000.

Supplementary property taxes are levied onto newly-constructed buildings for the part of the year they’ve been complete.

Councillor Frank Wong had identified that item for discussion, suggesting that like the revenue shortfalls in permits and subdivisions, revenues in this area should rebound with the economy.

“Once we open the Riverlands, once we have this plaza, we’re going to have buildings going up like crazy. So I expect it to recover in a couple years. Not this year or next year, maybe. I don’t really want to see it go into the base (budget),” he said.

Most of council agreed.

“Some of those revenue shortages (are) on a one-time basis, recognizing that the economy’s slow now in terms of new construction starts. We have confidence that will come back in the next couple of years. We can give some tax relief this year,” said Mayor Tara Veer.

With the revised rate increase, Red Deer property owners of a home assessed at $350,000 would pay an extra $44.82 per year. That works out to an additional $3.74 per month.

In addition, while not severed for discussion, the freezing of transit fees will go ahead.

Ridership has been declining since mid-2015, according to administration’s report. Veer said the City had to respond to price demands. It was a decision made with the vulnerable in mind, she added.

“We know for the most part, those who use transit are people from a socio-economic position need to use transit,” she said.

The City is also raising the fees it charges for emergency responses and fire prevention services. The new fees and charges will help recover part of the cost of providing those services.

Councillors also spent part of today’s meeting voicing displeasure over the impact of the provincial carbon tax that will be added to the price of fuels that emit greenhouse gases. That impact is $279,583 this year and $138,434 in 2018.

It represents 0.22% of the overall tax rate increase.

Veer once again called it downloading by the Alberta Government and repeated her stance that the tax should be revenue-neutral for municipalities.

However, one councillor sees opportunity in the provincial grants that will be funded by the tax.

“This organization needs to look for opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint. That means we could build a solar plant or switch to electric vehicles or any number of things we could do,” said Councillor Paul Harris.

“We will be able to apply for some grant funds from the provincial government to do those retrofits or those innovative projects. When we do them, they’ll reduce the operating budget.”

Day four of budget talks goes Friday afternoon.

joseph.ho@reddeerexpress.com

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