City council is in their second day of deliberating the 2015 operating budget. As proposed, the budget totals $329 million. If approved in full, as is, citizens are facing a 4.3% tax increase this year.
The 2015 capital budget, totaling $17.3 million, was approved in November.
“The overall theme of the 2015 operating budget is maintaining and enhancing core services,” said City Manager Craig Curtis. “We need to maintain and enhance our core programs and services that make Red Deer a great community.”
Since early 2014, the operating budget has gone through a review process, officials said. The proposed budget is based on council’s Strategic Plan and initiatives in City department service plans. City council’s Strategic Plan identifies three themes for administration to focus on including dialogue, community amenities and financial leadership.
“The capital and operating budgets are one way administration puts council’s strategy into action for the community,” said Curtis.
Some of the larger budget items include increasing the City’s firemedic staff by 10 additional firemedics, corporate fleet costs, the RCMP member fee agreement and police member and municipal employee costs.
Proposed in the budget is the addition of six new RCMP officers and three municipal staff.
The recommended budget includes investments in the areas of movement, safety and security and community amenities. They include items that focus on road improvements, increased Transit, policing and safety initiatives.
The City also faces many challenges such as decreased or eliminated grant funding, lower revenue from investments due to low interest rates and several major utility projects underway to accommodate growth. The proposed 2015 operating budget balances the need to maintain and enhance core City services, while using resources effectively and responsibly to watch the bottom line, said Curtis.
“The budget was prepared based on balancing what the community wants the City to do and what we need to do,” said Chief Financial Officer Dean Krejci.
The draft budget shows an average tax increase of 4.31% in the municipal portion of a property tax bill. However, Curtis notes, “This figure is only a starting point and will be impacted by council debate.”
Based on the submitted budget, a home which experienced the average assessment value change and is assessed at $325,000 for the 2015 tax year, can expect to see a $80.17 increase ($6.68 monthly) in the municipal portion of their taxes, which will be used to fund City services.
This does not include any changes to the education portion of property taxes as these won’t be known until later this year when the province releases its budget.
Over the next two weeks, divisional service plans and related funding adjustment recommendations will be presented to City council for consideration. Council will debate the operating budget on Jan. 8th and 9th and if needed, debate will continue on Jan. 12th, 13th and 14th.