Red Deer City council has approved the 2017 Capital Budget pegged at $104.97 million.
Talks wrapped up Wednesday in Council Chambers.
The capital budget includes projects that will take place in 2017, multi-year projects starting in 2017 or projects that require additional funding from previous years.
“Last year when we looked at the 2017 budget, what we anticipated for this year was $133 million in capital projects,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “When administration tabled the budget this year with council (earlier in) November it was a recommended budget of $6 million less than that.
“The budget was then tabled at $107 million. And then after council’s deliberations now, the adopted budget is $2 million less than the administrative recommendations, coming in at $105 million.”
Veer said that in deliberating the budget this week, she could hear that council and City administration were being highly responsive to the provincial economy for a number of reasons. “City revenues are down overall – as well as there is substantial uncertainty in terms of the grants that we receive from other orders of government.
“There is a degree of optimism in terms of our ability to leverage federal grants, however, we are concerned about the certainty of provincial grants,” she said. “Obviously, we wanted to make enough infrastructure investments in the community that would continue to move the community forward, and that we show confidence in our local economy.
“These projects have economic spin-offs in terms of keeping Red Deerians working and in attracting dollars to our local economy.”
Veer said she’s has served on 14 capital budgets, and, “There has never in the past 14 years been this substantial of movement in terms of reduction on the administrative recommendation and in terms of council deliberations in the capital budget. So from yesterday to today, there were $2 million in either reductions or deferrals in capital.”
Veer said that’s the most she has seen in those 14 budgets she’s been a part of working through.
Prominent deferrals were around a tabling of the move to demolish the old RCMP building and the construct a new adjacent parking lot – which would have cost $970,000.
Council also deferred spending $220,000 on Collicutt Centre facility enhancements, and they also put over a Traffic Calming Pilot Project – that would have cost $229,000 – until 2018.
Spending highlights that did make the grade included allocating $2.4 million to waste management which includes landfill expansion and proposed automated carets for garbage and recycling, and the spending of $220,000 on assessments/feasibility studies and concept designs for a new cultural facility in the City.
Council also agreed to grant $250,000 to support Red Deer Royals’ bid for a permanent home at St. Joseph’s High School.
The money was given, in part, as recognition of the Red Deer Community Band Society’s need for a permanent home and in celebration of its upcoming 50th anniversary. In a letter from the Red Deer Royals Alumni Association, it was noted that $1.7 million had already been raised for the project, and organizers were seeking the $250,000 to top up that amount so the project could proceed.
Some of the other items passed during deliberations included infrastructure replacement and rehabilitation projects, like pavement rehabilitation and roadway reconstruction; current growth projects, like North Red Deer Regional Water Services Commission supply line purchase, and improvements on Ross Street at Rideout Avenue and 20th Ave.
Future growth projects were also given the green light, such as the Taylor Drive intersection improvements, storm and water offsite improvements and waste management infrastructure for the Green Cart Program.
There were also Community Amenity projects including the Riverwalk Phase 2 and Plaza, the Red Deer Royals legacy project, Cronquist House preservation and playground development in Lonsdale that were approved as well.
“Investments made in infrastructure during a slower economy help to provide job opportunities, investment opportunities, increased community amenities and positive future outlook, while respecting our communities ability to afford it,” said Veer.
With the approval of the 2017 Capital Budget, the City’s estimated debt limit for 2017 sits at 66%, which is below the 75% debt limit set by council.
“When we developed this budget for council’s consideration, we focused on providing quality infrastructure for Red Deerians, while keeping sustainability and the current economic reality in mind,” said City Manager Craig Curtis.
“We recommended a capital budget that was $26 million less than what we proposed in 2016 that respects council’s direction, vision and budget guidelines surrounding debt limit and tax increases.”
Along with the 2017 Capital Budget, council approved the 2018-2026, $1.3 billion Capital Plan in principle allowing the flexibility for administration to adjust the priorities outlined in the plan based on community need, economy, grant availability and project funding.
“A project’s inclusion in the Capital Plan does not mean that it is necessarily going ahead, it simply means that the City is considering it, planning for it, and looking at financing options,” said Curtis.
“We plan projects well into the future based on council direction, community needs and funding.”